"A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear.
War is over, if you want it
War is over now."
...John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
What a year.
It feels as if government Grinches and corporate Scrooges have been working overtime to drain every last drop of joy, kindness and liberty from the world.
After endless months of gloom and doom, it's hard not to feel like Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas as he struggles to feel happy and find the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of rampant commercialism, political correctness and the casual cruelty of an apathetic, self-absorbed, dog-eat-dog world.
Then again, isn't that struggle to overcome the darkness and find the light within exactly what Christmas, the celebration of a baby born in a manger, is all about? The reminder that we have not been forgotten or forsaken. Glad tidings in the midst of hard times. Goodwill to counter meanness. Innocence in the face of cynicism. Hope in the midst of despair. Comfort to soothe our fears. Peace as an answer to war. Love that conquers hate.
As "fellow-passengers to the grave," we all have a moral duty to make this world (or at least our small corners of it) just a little bit kinder, a little less hostile and a lot more helpful to those in need.
No matter what one's budget, religion, or political persuasion, there is no shortage of things we can each do right now to pay our blessings forward and recapture the true spirit of Christmas.
For starters, move beyond the "us" vs. "them" mentality. Tune into what's happening in your family, in your community and your world, and get active. Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Talk less, and listen more. Take less, and give more. Stop being a hater. Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. Value your family. Count your blessings. Share your blessings. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Bridge bridges, and tear down walls. Stand for freedom. Strive for peace.
One thing more: make time for joy and laughter. Shake off the blues with some Christmas tunes, whatever fits the bill for you, be it traditional carols, rollicking oldies, or some rocking new tunes. Watch a Christmas movie that reinforces your faith in humanity.
Here are ten of my favorite Christmas movies and music albums to get you started.
First the movies.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946). An American classic about a despondent man, George Bailey who is saved from suicide by an angel working to get his wings.
The Bishop's Wife (1947). An angel answers a bishop's prayer for help in this tale of lost visions and longings of the heart.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Kris Kringle, hired on as Santa Claus by Macy's Department Store for its Thanksgiving Day Parade, forced to prove he's the real deal or serve time in a psych ward.
A Christmas Carol (1951). This is the best film version of the penny-pinching Scrooge's journey to spiritual enlightenment by way of visits from supernatural visitors. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) provides a wonderful glimpse into how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol.