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Every year, it seems the Christmas season encroaches a little more on the rest of the calendar. Christmas items are on store shelves next to Halloween candy. The all-holiday-music radio station is playing carols in early November. And our neighbors are putting up lights before there is even a nip in the air.

Christmas has become the holiday monster that seems bent on defeating and consuming all of its holiday competitors.

Normally, I'm the kind of person who decries the early arrival of Christmas. I think seasons and rituals are really important for us to be healthy human beings, and so I prefer it when seasons stay within their bounds. When Christmas gets ahead of itself, I worry we'll miss out on something else that's important in our rush for the yuletide fun.

Like Thanksgiving. I absolutely love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. I love the food -- it really is the best meal of the year. I love watching the parade with my kids. I love the practice of considering all we have for which to be grateful. So usually, I'm very protective of Thanksgiving and want Christmas to wait its turn.

But maybe not this year.

This year, I'm not nearly as bothered by Christmas stuff in stores or the decorations going up early or the sound of "Jingle Bells" on the radio before Thanksgiving. This year, I have a sense that we need a little Christmas right this very minute.

This year has been a rough one.

Our political divisions have never been as sharp as they seem to be right now. The past 11 months have felt like a daily struggle, with each new day providing some fresh crisis to care deeply about and take action for. Natural disasters have felt like they've arrived with more frequency and viciousness this year. From mass shootings to celebrity sexual assault scandals, the news has been particularly depressing. There really is a sense that things are getting worse, and it could be a long time before they get better.

Maybe Christmas is just the distraction we need. The spectacle gives our eyes something else to look at. The stories of Santa, Frosty and Rudolph take us to a simpler time in our minds. Maybe it would be nice to worry about finishing off our Christmas shopping rather than global crises.

Or maybe, we need a little Christmas right this very minute because the story of the holiday actually speaks to all of our pain and confusion and anxiety in a deeply meaningful way. It's not just a sanguine distraction; it's balm for our modern souls. It has a strikingly contemporary fee: A blended, nontraditional family has to worry so much about taxes that they become refugees in the midst of a major health situation. This could be a segment on "60 Minutes" or a profile piece on the Huffington Post.

But it's not just a story about them. It's a story about us.

We need a little Christmas because we can find ourselves in this story. It's a story that invites us to consider how small things can make a big difference, how light shines in the darkness and how unexpected characters can become heroes on a grand scale.

My favorite part of the Christmas season is celebrating Advent with my church family. Advent is a part of the church calendar that encourages us not to jump to the end of the story, but to immerse ourselves in the drama of it. It's a time of waiting and anticipating -- just as new parents do in the weeks before the baby is born.

Advent celebrations usually focus on four themes: hope, peace, joy, and love. When all hope seems lost, there is a reason not to give up. In the midst of conflict and strife, peace and joy can still be found. And all of it is because of love -- the love God has for us expressed in the arrival of Jesus and the love we share with each other through gifts as well as glad tidings of great joy.

So I'm happy that Christmas is upon us. I'm happy it pushed its way into our attention early this year. I'm happy to relive this really important story over the next month.

We do need a little Christmas now.

NAN Religion on 12/02/2017

Print Headline: We need a little Christmas

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