For a moment, let’s take a hard line on Christmas this year, beyond the warm thoughts and seasonal acts of kindness that tend to cloud the broader picture.
We live in a world increasingly beset by political turmoil, financial uncertainty, and natural and man-made disaster.
Around the world in 2011, political upheaval and war have created great tragedy, and great opportunity. But almost always, tragedy must take the stage first, and the opportunity will come at the cost of lives.
Disasters have claimed thousands of lives, and millions more people live in vulnerable situations that often leave them exposed to calamity. And despite the heroic efforts of many among us — like Central Albertans Eric Rajah and Amanda Lindhout and their supporters — our efforts to foster change abroad must take the slow road.
At home, in the sanctity of a society that was built on a vision of progress, respect, restraint and order, our struggles seem minor.
But our domestic perspective tends to be pretty myopic, so we fret about our diminished incomes, rising costs and the disconnect between our political leaders’ intentions and our needs.
We poke at every little societal blemish (and editorial writers are the worst in this category), and take great umbrage at the smallest of slights.
All that leads to more pressure on society, even one as stable and fruitful as ours, and greater burdens placed on individual lives.
It is no small thing, of course, that we really have taken a few steps back as a society. We struggle to be as inclusive, generous and progressive as we once were. We can’t reconcile our environmental concerns with our economic desires. And we often can’t see past our philosophical and political differences to find common ground worth pursuing.
And then Christmas arrives, often in a rush and bringing its own set of pressures and oversized expectations.
The lucky among us can see the forest and the trees at Christmas: that it is a season to celebrate the possibility of mankind, the sanctity of home and family, and the origins of love.
For many, though, the Christmas season is a frenzy leading to a crescendo, followed by an exhausted state of bewilderment. And then they resume their normal scheduling.
But what if each of us took a step back and sought that part of Christmas we can embrace all year? The sense of coming home, finding truth, joy and peace, regardless of your faith (or lack of faith).
Because, ultimately, what we’re talking about is embracing the best in human nature and making it our compass.
It amounts to proving to ourselves that Christmas is not the only time of year that the good in each of us truly shines through.
And wouldn’t that be a fabulous gift, to ourselves and everyone around us?
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.