I am a lover of the English language.
I try to make good use of it, but sometimes I fail miserably.
I seem to have difficulty with "H" words. For years I believed the definition of haste was the exact opposite of what it is. The word sounds slow to me. If I came across the expression "make haste,"
I assumed it meant to slow down. I was in my thirties before I discovered my error. The same is true for the word hale.
My husband has used the expression "hale and hearty," to refer to someone healthy and robust, which never made sense to me because hale sounds sickly to me, maybe because it
rhymes with pale.
Most people wouldn't lose any sleep over these mistakes,
but I'm not most people.
Words that get me flummoxed are the ones I try to use most often. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.
I was housebound for a while, sidelined with an unexpected case of shingles. During one incredibly boring Friday, I did what any logophile would do; I cracked open my dictionary to a long list of "H" words and began reading them. By the end of the "H" section, I began to lose interest and my mind wandered off to other, more interesting subjects, like Christmas shopping.
Before I closed the big book however, a small group of words knitted closely together on the page prompted me to think about the holidays (another "h" word, interestingly enough).
The words humble, humble pie, humbug, and humility appear relatively close together in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
In my mind, humbug and pie are as common to Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving.
Most of us have a general knowledge of these words and I'm guessing most of us try to be humble and avoid, when possible, behaving like humbugs. But it was the definition of humbug, so soon after the one for humble, that got me thinking.
A humbug is described as "a person who passes himself off as something he is not; an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception." After careful consideration of these two words, I realized that though humility is necessary in many circumstances, it is ill-applied during the holiday season. In certain circumstances regarding ones Christianity, by being humble, we essentially become humbugs.
Allow me to explain.
I call myself a Christian.
And each year, just before the official holiday season kicks in, and before the Black Friday sales flyers arrive, I remind myself that Christmas is much more than overspending, overextending, and overeating. I make a mental list of all the things I should be doing to honor the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. These include making charitable donations, volunteering my time for a worthy cause, attending mass, encouraging my family (and myself) to remain mindful of the true meaning of Christmas, and taking a more zen approach to a season that has the potential to turn from merriment to mayhem in seconds.
Thus far, I have a few Christmases under my belt, and I'm pretty sure I've left more than a few footprints on that road to hell.
And though I blame no one but myself, the clarity of my intentions becomes quite clouded as I comply with a culture of shoppers who demand little from the giants of retail, and fall prey to the urgency of consumerism.
We Christians tend to believe that God is everywhere, and yet on one of the holiest occasions of our faith, for which we drop billions (collectively), the Holy Family seems to be M.I.A.
Most of us don't need a wake-up call from the ghosts of Christmases past. I'm guessing that the majority of shoppers, Christians and non-Christians alike, are well aware that retail has a no-room-at-the-inn policy for worship-worthy sentiment.
And let's face it, commercialized-Santa is a sleigh-load more fun than St. Nicholas, isn't he?
Modern day Santa has no strings attached; he's a jolly guy who gives great gifts, and he's temporary. A true Christian however, recognizes that he's about as satisfying as a fat-free dessert; enjoyable with no guilt, but inevitably leaves you wanting more.
We Christians may score points for such awareness, but this is exactly where humility gets us into trouble.
My dictionary defines humility as "the quality or state of being humble; not arrogant or assertive; expressing or offered in a spirit of deference or submission; apology; insignificant, unpretentious."
Admittedly, this is one ugly shoe that fits me pretty well.
At a time when trend says that God should be uninvited to our schools, meals, and general conversation, I am unwilling to accept that He and His Family be removed from our holiday celebrations. But let's face it, defending religion can be uncomfortable. No one wants to be a killjoy at the holiday party, and those cute cards with generic sentiments save us a few bucks because they apply to all of our friends without offense.
And so, I suppose that puts me among the ranks of humbugs;
I have tasted that humble pie, and resisted the urge to speak up in defense of Christ-mas. Shamefully, I have patronized retailers who dress their stores to the nines with nary a Creche in sight. I have even been drawn to seasonal commercials filled with merriment, humming along to tunes that make no reference to any holiday, taking political correctness to a whole new level of shamelessness.
And while we're on the subject of shame, let me assure you, though it's clever marketing, there is nothing holy about the angels in the holiday advertisements of one lingerie retailer.
I'm pretty sure there are no socioeconomic boundaries to this seasonal apathy either. Our town suffered a string of robberies during the holiday season last year; thieves primarily stole
blow-up holiday ornaments from well-decorated homes. Not surprisingly, the few that remained unharmed were inflatable Nativity scenes. Officers suggested it was more an act of indifference than respect, not to mention that religious decorations offer little opportunity for resale.
So where does that leave us?
You will glean what you will from my discourse and
make your own judgements.
On a personal note, I intend to take backward strides on that road to hell by correcting the error of my ways, if only in baby steps.
Perhaps I will start by becoming more aware of those establishments to whom I surrender my hard-earned pay.
I will be more conscious of those who acknowledge and return a "Merry Christmas" over a "Happy Holidays."
I will make Christmas Day the focus of our celebration instead of the end result of harrowing holiday chaos.
And I will skip the humble pie when the opportunity arises
for me to speak up in defense of a holiday none of us would enjoy,
were it not for the hospitality of an innkeeper, and the strength of
one Woman who believed.
This is my truth;