A magical Christmas, a magical evening, magical touch, magical love – people talk about magic when they experience special emotions that they cannot or would rather not explain. “Bring a little magic into your life”. This is a saying that resonates extremely well with the expectations of an entire generation.
For adults, “magic” is shorthand for “dream”, “fairy”, ”leprechaun” or “Santa Claus”. Shorthand for “I need something extraordinary to happen so that I can enjoy life more”. Think, for example, that everyone, at least once in their lifetime, nurtures the hope of inexplicably or unexpectedly falling in love, in circumstances that can only truly happen in books or movies.
The magic of your own dream
This new meaning has been added to modern Christmas-time celebrations so successfully that it seems to have become the main impression of the holiday. You are enticed to accept the thought that it can happen to you too, to be willing, like the main characters in the movies, to search for or to see special things, magical situations, inexplicable details and occasions, and special feelings. For those who receive the offer, the magic of Christmas means emotion, anticipation, and dreaming.
Some call it a miracle, closer to the language acceptable to a good Christian. However, the meanings do not actually differ much. To be a better person, to witness the miracle of the transformation of people at Christmas means, in fact, the same search that the child in us undertook for a realm of beauty, of purity. For all children, the magic or the miracle of Christmas is the magic of their own dreams.
But this dream of beauty and purity is primarily a dream of God, and that is why He sent His Son to live among people. Why then, when celebrating the birth of the Lord, do we not dream of His dream, do we not hope in His promises, but only in a speck of earthly magic? The magic of your own dreams cannot be the true essence of Christmas.
The magic of memory
The magic of Christmas is also the magic of memory. People, places, words, gestures, and emotions, which we do not have as much time and space for in the rest of the year, come back to our memory around Christmas.
Those who come from an authentic village, still positioned in the fresh air of the meadows and in the atmosphere of the popular traditions that are kept without exception by the pious elders, have no way to erase the most extraordinary images from their memories: the still silence of the winter evenings, the smoke curling from the chimneys, the cold, red cheeks of the carollers who enter the house bringing with them the smell of snow, the cake and traditional dishes. It is especially difficult to forget the authentic joy, simplicity, and spiritual solemnity of the elders who do not say, “Christ was born,” but “Christ is born.”
The decorated city, the children’s fair, the Christmas tree, the carols, the special family atmosphere, the church mass/Nativity program—each of these images represents the same people with different emotional memories, but for whom the end of the year offers a good opportunity to go back in time.
Unfortunately, during the holidays, these memories awaken the most intimate and pleasant thoughts and feelings only for some. For others, the memories are not magic, but a nightmare. Therefore, the magic of memory cannot be the essence of Christmas either.
To discover the essence of Christmas, we must first ask ourselves why a special time for hope is needed, and why it is so difficult to dream and search for the miraculous throughout the year. In a world where the goodness of Christmas is at risk of becoming a deceptive consolation for the hopelessness and lack of altruism that characterises the rest of the year, the birth of Jesus brings with it the picture of a completely different world.
In simple colours, in clear strokes, in easy-to-decipher messages, the birth of Jesus does not speak of magic or miracles, but of another world. A world in which peace, faith, meaning and consistency are the dimensions of a permanent change.
The essence of Christmas has to do with peace. In a hectic world, we need the peace of the night in Bethlehem, the peace of mind of those who know how to wait. “If I were a physician, and if I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. Even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, how could one hear it with so much noise? Therefore, create silence.” (Kierkegaard)
The essence of Christmas has to do with faith. This is demonstrated by the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem—simple, hardworking, honest people who sit in the open air, keeping watch in the middle of the night. Shepherds are people who can hear the angels and find no reason to hesitate to take action. Beliefs change the world, whether false (Marx) or holy (Christ). Not just for the moment, but in depth. Faith is not just about a certain time of the year.
The essence of Christmas has to do with meaning. The magi have something to say about meaning. “The wise men come to worship, just as the shepherds do. That is why they are wise,” said theologian Peter Kreeft, “not because they know the means, the way, but because they know the end; not because they lift their heads to the stars but because they bow their knees to the Baby.”
The essence of Christmas has to do with consistency. Joseph of Nazareth teaches the lesson of the ultimate significance of consistency. Joseph’s consistency saved Jesus, and likewise it saved the world. Obedience to the angel of the Lord and taking responsibility for his family are the basic means by which Joseph defies the plans of King Herod, inspired by the devil to kill the Infant. “Take away all the Nobel Prize winners and humanity would still survive. But take away obedience to God and loyalty to family, and even with a million Nobel Prize winners, humanity is doomed.”
Let’s give Christmas more stillness and it will reveal things we didn’t even think of. Let’s give it a drop of faith, and we’ll find God. Let’s look for its meaning and it will reveal the Cross to us. Let it stay with us beyond December, and it will give us the wisdom to live differently. Allow God to dream for us and we will receive the blessing to live—in the light of the Manger and the Cross—a life that changes the taste of the world and carries the light into places that have been darkened by sadness.
Norel Iacob is Editor in Chief of ST Network and Semnele timpului.