The wonders of the Christmas spirit

The angel on the treetop is frayed around the edges and takes a few minutes to warm up, after all these years, but once she does, she flashes red and green and white. The kids in the family may fuss a little about which ornament goes where, but they know when it comes to the angel, there is no room for debate. Daddy indulges their wishes about the size of the tree, their placement of the Rudolph stuffed statue, the location of Santa’s cookies on Christmas Eve – but that angel is going where she’s gone for many a year.

Psychologists tell us to indulge our happiness in this holiday season but to remember that we’re all probably a little happier than we ought to be and a little more sad than we ought to be when it comes to things or people who disappoint us. Our emotions, good and bad, just rise a little closer to the surface this time of year.

That said, we do so hope that today brings all a merriment of family togetherness and a lift of spirit no matter one’s beliefs or circumstances. And, yes, for those who are without family, may friends fill that void, and may memory of times past bring not melancholy but smiles.

In our city and our state and our nation and our world, this Christmas Day finds some few among us without a care in the world, but most others, be they children or adults or the elderly, are carrying worries – about their own security, about their children and grandchildren, about the state of things in distant lands where hate and violence do not, regrettably, take a day off, even Christmas.

And today, some families won’t be at the home hearth, but at hospitals, with their loved ones or with friends. Good day and good health and prayers going up for you, friends. Next Christmas, we hope you’re long out of the hospital and home with the tackiest slippers you’ve ever seen.

Also today, some of our very best neighbors will delay their own Christmas dinners to hang on an apron and work in a soup kitchen. Some may take their older kids with them. Amen to you. There are few things to make us more grateful for what we have than to help those with nothing and to see them, even up against all their worries, determined to be grateful themselves. The spirit of Christmas may be found most readily, in fact, in places where the bounty is not so great, in places where the gifts are homemade and the tree is small.

We are in this season bombarded by photographs of foreign cars wrapped in ribbons or advertised cruises to take us to warmer places for a mere $10,000 or fine furs to keep us warm when we return.

But for most of us, the spirit visits in small and utterly free ways: in that grandson’s resting his head on a grandmother’s shoulder and the smile it produces, in a stroll by carolers through the lobby of a nursing home, in the just-in-time return of a son or daughter on furlough from a foreign assignment in the military, in the hug produced by a patch-up in a family feud, in the smiles of children in glee not from an expensive gift but from a home-baked cookie and another showing of “The Polar Express.”

And, yes, the relief that comes when the old angel on the treetop lights up for one more Christmas.

That’s the spirit. Always has been, always will be.