Why Celebrate The Longest Night Of The Year Anyway?
For most people Christmas means – if it “means” anything at all – running up debts and getting drunk. Long gone are the traditions in most families. The presents lie scattered by 5am and the tetchy children are driven to places they would rather not go to see people they would rather not see. Only to get stuck in a traffic jam for an hour or two.
So what happened to Christmas? What indeed! Was it anything anyway? Mere tradition doesn’t hit the mark any more with the iPad and xBox generation. Everything needs to be driven to them from outside, videos – games – food. The modern generation expect to be hand fed everything, and that includes Christmas.
Let us get a few facts here. In the Gospel according to Luke the shepherds were out on the hills. This was no normal night for them, as they only did this on the very longest night of the year. Until very recently this persisted in Europe where farmers would sing to the cattle in the byres.
So what is special about the longest night you say?
Well, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Even the birth of Jesus pales to nothing when you realize what it meant for Him to live. No more – not his birth nor his death mean as much to me. Yet the life of a man practically unknown to history, what is it? Nothing. Just some ragamuffin wandering the byroads? Occasionally speaking words of great wisdom in the local gathering places? On a pedestrian level, he isn’t the first, and won’t be the last. Yet Jesus was – and is – special. That detail I will leave for another day because this is about ordinary people. That means you and me.
Because the longest night is a triviality. It is nothing save the night being longer and the day shorter. The lights go on earlier and the heating runs hotter – you don’t need to adjust it because it’s automatic. Maybe even your lights are automatic in these computer-driven days. Who knows. Who cares!
Well I do.
Just because the longest night is something trivial doesn’t stop every other night being shorter. Mankind has always celebrated things of this kind, and as a keen gardener I agree with them. The winter solstice, Christmas or whatever you want to call it, will be celebrated by sensible people until time itself stops. Only … why? Well, why not! The point of celebrating the longest night is that it is the longest night. Humans gather and celebrate.
They do something.
They aren’t fed it using an electronic intravenous drip. They stand up and move, enjoy and meet friends. Because it is only by doing that you will have any sense for the present moment. It is only by experiencing the present moment will you have any memories. It’s called life. If you aren’t living life, where will your memories consist of? The last time you got 10,000,000 points on your xBox? The last time you bought something on eBay?
Because the secret of Christmas is about you living your life in a way that is memorable. Nobody else can make your memories for you.