Back in college, I learned sophistication and nuance. The old fashioned stodgy lifestyle of my parents mid-western home was passe. I was becoming an educated, discriminating man of the world and it was time to put away childish things and one of those things was Christmas cards.
It was a struggle.
I was torn because this new sophistication wasn’t logical. Christmas (and religion of course) were merely an opiate for the masses and should be shunned. But it wasn’t so simple because sophisticated and nuanced people didn’t want to miss out on Christmas presents or the partying of the season. They sent out Holiday cards that communicated innocuous good wishes for the ‘season’ and exchanged gifts. Their secular lifestyle was unruffled without actually offending anybody..
Then there were the Jews.
For the first time in my life, I discovered that not everybody celebrated Christmas. In my culturally deprived hometown, everybody was a nominal Christian. I knew about Jews. I’d even seen one or two in person but they weren’t part of my life. In college, they were everywhere. I discovered that they were pretty normal, except for the oddity of not celebrating Easter or Christmas although it struck me as convenient that they had a compensating holiday at the same time. That alone is should be enough to make you believe in God.
And, of course, the atheists.
For the first time in my life, I had to think about the impact of sending a Christmas card to a non-believer. It was my first lesson in applying sophistication and nuance. If I know that someone is not a Christian, it it proper to send them a Christmas card? This was really a non-issue since college students don’t normally send Christmas cards and if they do, it is probably just to family and friends from home not to their sophisticated and nuanced college buds. Still, I agonized.
Once that small doubt is inserted, it becomes harder and harder to act. Should I send a Christmas card to people I know to be non-Christian? Should I send them an innocuous holiday card? Or nothing at all? Once you start down that path, it is hard to stop. How do you know someone’s heart. Why should you assume that they celebrate Christmas? How can you be so arrogant and insensitive? The natural process finally tells you to send everybody a holiday card or just forget the whole damn thing. That way the only people you can possibly offend are real Christians and as I learned in college, they are all nut jobs anyway.
When you are sophisticated and nuanced you play it safe.
So I’ve played it pretty safe with holiday cards through my life. I pretty much tiptoed around the actual Christmas meaning and kept the whole message pretty secular. “Party-on, Dudes!”
Lately, though, my veneer of sophistication seems to be wearing thin. Each year sees a diminished role of religion in the celebration and it’s beginning to bother me. After all, religion is one of the things that separates man from animals. Despite all the effort on the part of the nuanced and sophisticated atheists and agnostics running our institutions these days, we remain a Christian country. If being religious makes you a nut job then our founding fathers were nut jobs.
So what’s your point?
Well, I’m getting off track here. The point I started out with is that I am finally comfortable with sending ‘real’ Christmas cards and not the safe and innocuous holiday cards. I have finally determined that what they mean is not that I want to push Christianity on anybody but at Christmas time, I want everybody, Christian or not to think about the meaning of Christmas. It is my message to them that I hope they will share in the joy of the message for believers and non-believers. That is the spirit of the season.
Bottom line, I’m finally over my holiday confusion. It may not be nuanced and sophisticated but this year I’m sending Christmas cards.