Merry Christmas, everyone! Here’s the end of Curt’s Christmas adventures.
I suppose I need to make a few clarifications. In my last entry, I said I was not ‘an Ebenezer Stooge.’ Yes, I mean ‘Scrooge.’ The ‘Stooge’ is a long and complicated joke that would take far, far, too long to explain.
Secondly, I suppose “my doom,” was pretty harsh. Especially considering that the woman who came in could hardly be under 70. She seemed chipper, though. “Merry Christmas,” I said, feeling as goofy as I possibly could in my newly acquired hat.
“Merry Christmas to you, too,” she said.
I glanced behind me. Seph mouthed, “Coat.”
I nodded slightly. “Can I take your coat, ma’am?” I asked.
“Why, thank you, young man,” she said with a bright smile. I helped her take it off, then hung it up as she disappeared past the coat room.
“See?” Seph said. “That wasn’t that hard, was it?”
“I guess not,” I said. I didn’t want to admit how easy it had been. If that’s all it took to make someone happy and welcome, why hadn’t I thought of it before?
“Wonderful. I’m sure you’ll do fine.” With a pat on the back, Seph left me.
I will admit, after getting the hat, I felt more comfortable. It was like I didn’t need to be me. The hat let me be someone else, someone who didn’t mind dressing up and looking like a buffoon for the holiday.
Chance and his friends left after about an hour. They all shook my hand again, and then walked back out into the frigid December air. Shortly after, the woman came back through. As I found her coat for her, she thanked me for such a nice welcome. “I’ve never felt more at home except at home,” she said, her eyes twinkling.
As she left, I felt warmth in my chest. It had been a long time since I had felt this kind of pride, the kind that comes from doing things for others. Typically, it was pride in myself – my personal awards and accolades. But compared to this feeling, that was hollow and dull. This was fullness. I can’t explain it in any other way except that. Fullness.
The rest of the day passed quickly, as the warmth in my chest filled the hours. I left the building, the cold wind barely penetrating my skin. It wasn’t until I got into my car and glanced in the rearview mirror that I realized I was still wearing Seph’s hat. “I’ll give it back to Robby and Dustin,” I said to myself.
The drive back home was worse than I had expected. Even as I watched the snow fall, I didn’t think the plows wouldn’t be able to keep up. But apparently, they had not, and the roads were slick. I was thankful I remembered to put my snow tires on the week before. Finally, I pulled into my apartment building’s parking lot.
In the space next to mine sat a familiar red car. I could tell it was Chance’s from the small doll that hung from his rearview mirror, a small boy in a lederhosen, which he insisted on calling Johannes Schmidt. With a wary mind, I walked upstairs, and opened my door, finding everyone sitting in a semi-circle in my living room. I paused, expecting a rush of activity.
Chance stood up. “I can’t get back to my house,” he explained. “The roads around there are closed off. I gave you a call. Did you get it?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t angry – we had both agreed that if there ever a need, we could crash at the other’s apartment.
“We were just checking the traffic. It still hasn’t cleared up.”
“What happened?” I asked, looking at the tablet on the middle of the floor.
“Some accident. I don’t have the details. But whatever it was, it was bad enough to close Houston Street,” Chance said. I nodded. His street was a dead end off of Houston, and from the map, I could tell it was stopped, no matter which way you tried to get to it.
Chance refreshed the page again, but traffic still showed up as stopped. “In any case, let me get you guys something,” I said, heading for the kitchen. I checked the refrigerator. “How do you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?” I asked. “With water?”
“I’m allergic,” Gloria said. “But I have other stuff I can eat.”
Chance looked around at the group. “I think we’ll be fine. A lot of us brought leftovers from lunch, and that’s what we were planning to have for dinner anyway. But thanks, Curt.”
“Not a problem,” I said.
“You know,” Seph said, looking around, “I’m not surprised you were wearing black today, what with this apartment. Why don’t you get into the season?”
“I have no reason to,” I said. “Oh, and this is yours.” I gave her back the hat.
“There’s plenty of reason,” Seph said.
“Right. The family reunions, the tree, the gifts, and all of that, correct?” I asked, taking the armchair.
“That,” Seph said, “But more importantly, it’s a time to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. All of the festivities are just added bonuses of that.”
“Ah,” I said, “You’re one of those.”
“What?” Seph asked, indignant. “Christians?”
“More specifically, Christians who still believe Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birth.”
“I’m not sure if you’re allowed to make a comment,” Seph said.
Chance snorted, and I looked at him. “You didn’t tell them?” I asked.
“It never came up,” he said apologetically.
“I am a Christian,” I said. “But I don’t celebrate Christmas. For two reasons. First, I don’t have anyone to celebrate with.”
“Except us,” Chance muttered under his breath.
“Second,” I said loudly, glaring at him. “Look around you. How many people really focus on the ‘true meaning of Christmas?'”
“So that means it’s up to us to remember what it really means,” Seph said.
“Shouldn’t we remember that everyday?” I asked.
“But why shouldn’t there be a day set aside just to remember that as a collective church body?”
I paused. I had never thought about that. “I can understand that,” I agreed. “But I still don’t agree with all the additional festivities. I just feel like they’re unnecessary.”
“Be that as it may,” Seph said, “I’m going to give you a Christmas gift. Maybe this isn’t what the season is about, but I want you to remember that Christmas is also a time to enjoy life. So,” she held the hat out to me. “Merry Christmas. And stop frowning so much. You should be filled with joy at the thought of Jesus Christ coming into the world to save us from our sins.” I took the hat. She flashed me a smile, then refreshed the traffic page.
I fingered the soft fabric in my hands. “It’s clear!” Chance yelled. He looked at me. “Thanks for letting us crash here,” he said, clasping my hand. “I’ll see you sometime, all right?”
“Sounds good,” I said, looking him in the eye. We shook once, and then they were gone. I stood and walked to the window as they left the building. I watched them go, a silver sedan following Chance’s red one, then tossed the hat onto the television tucked into the corner. I sunk back into my chair, reaching for A Wrinkle in Time.
I read, but did not comprehend. The words buzzed past my eyes, never really meaning anything. All I could think about was those words. “Christmas is also a time to enjoy life.”
My eyes fell back to the hat on the television. But what was the point of enjoying life? I wanted a good job, of course. But why should I care about enjoying life. I thought about Ecclesiastes, where it says, “Meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless.” I knew that even knowledge wasn’t worth it in the end. And while I loved learning, even that was hollow.
I thought about the warm feeling I had felt earlier that day. I hadn’t given it much thought – I was far from a strong Christian, but I knew enough that I knew my joy should come from Christ, and not from doing good works. And yet, even with Christ, I felt empty.
I put my book down and walked to the television, picking up the hat. It felt warm in my hand. I noticed that in the base, there were pictures of animals, frolicking and playing in the snow. Some where farm animals, like sheep and goats, but others were more ferocious – wolves, foxes and what I assumed to be a weasel, to name a few.
I put the hat back down, slumping in my seat once more. My mind still churned. As I mulled over, I looked at the shelf, and noticed my Bible. I pulled it off and opened it, expecting the answer to spring out at me. “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab….” I trailed off as I realized I was in Matthew’s Begat’s.
I looked up ‘Christmas joy,’ but couldn’t find anything beyond Christ being the reason for the season. But I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel that joy. I stood up again, and retreated to my bedroom, where I found my Bible. I opened to Luke, but instead of reading the Christmas Story, I jumped ahead to the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For the next several hours, I immersed myself into the story, from all the different gospels. When I finished, I felt different. “Never lose the wonder,” I murmured to myself. “Never lose the wonder of the Cross, and what Jesus Christ did for you there.”
In the same breath, I felt like weeping with sadness for Christ’s sacrifice and screaming for joy for my salvation. I pulled out my phone, and texted Chance, asking him if his offer still stood of joining in his Christmas celebration. In only a few seconds, he had responded to me, that of course, they would be happy to have me join them.
So that’s my story. I’ve grown older, wiser. I celebrate Christmas more now. It’s hard not to, when I have three beautiful grandchildren who I want to bless. But to you, my children, I wanted to remind you. I know you’re all off, rushing about all the Christmas things. And that’s fine. Just don’t lose sight of what’s really important, please. Jesus Christ and him crucified – and him resurrected, and ascended on high.
Ever loving you,
Jimmy Didas closed the email, sighing. He looked at the calendar next to the computer. It was filled with events that he needed to attend. Christmas parties, dinners, so much stuff. He pushed back from the desk, and stood up. It took him a few seconds, but he finally found his phone. He searched the calendar. A party that night, held by Anthony Sharpe. He found the name in his contacts in his phone, then called. Anthony picked up on the second ring.
“Hi, Anthony?” Jimmy asked. “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to come to the party tonight.”
“What’s wrong, man? Is there something wrong?”
“No,” Jimmy said. “I just realized that I need to take it slow this year. I need to refocus on what’s really important.”
“You mean like family, and everything?”
“No,” Jimmy said. “I know what’s important in regard to that. I’ve just been putting so much attention on parties, and gift wrapping, and getting caught up in everything that I forgot why there’s Christmas at all.”
“Oh. You mean like Jesus in the manger and all that junk.”
“It’s not junk. Anthony.”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Well, we’ll miss you tonight.”
The phone went dead, and Jimmy sighed. He had tried his best, he knew. “This is for me,” he said quietly, looking at the small nativity scene under his lamp. “But this is also for you.”
Merry Christmas, everyone, and we’ll see you next year. If you need a New Year’s post, check out last year’s “Obligatory End of Year Post.” All the best for you in the coming year!