Q. What are you doing here?
A. Why do you ask?
Q. Isn’t it Wednesday?
A. So what?
Q. Aren’t you supposed to write these on Tuesdays?
A. How consistent have I been with that?
Q. Didn’t I ask you?
A. Well then. You have your answer. It’s Wednesday morning. It’s Christmas. I wrote two of them yesterday and hated them both. I’ll be tempted to delete this one, like I deleted both of the others. I hate this day. It’s a day of celebration for others, and of mourning and grieving for me. It’s this day that I used to love and have come to dread. It’s finally here. It’s upon me. And I’m miserable.
Q. Aren’t you forgetting the “reason for the season?”
A. Thanks for reminding me of the most ludicrous cliche imaginable. If Jesus Himself down and expressed His own disgust with this ridiculous sham of a so-called holy day, would you ask Him that same question?
Q. Aren’t you only projecting your own disgust onto Him?
A. I beg your pardon! I’m only asking a question. To be honest with you, I don’t believe Jesus has any particular opinion about this holiday at all. I believe He relates to individuals on an individual basis, whoever it is who seeks relationship with Him. He is therefore pleased with some people on Christmas, and not others.
Q. And you are one of the ones He is pleased with?
A. I didn’t say that! How can He possibly be pleased with me if I am not at all pleased with myself?
Q. Are you suggesting that He would suddenly become pleased with you if you were to become pleased with your own self?
A. Of course not! I could become pleased with myself over the slightest success or victory at damned near anything — whether Jesus was tracking with it or not.
A. Yes – seriously! I’m the type of person who feels good when he’s accomplished something successfully, and feels lousy when he hasn’t. Isn’t that obvious? Aren’t I transparent?
Q. When was the last time you accomplished something successfully?
A. Too long ago. It’s been days, at least. Maybe weeks.
Q. So then it’s not really Christmas that is the issue, is it?
A. No, not really. But I’ll make no bones about it. I do not like this holiday! I don’t believe it has much to do with the birth of Jesus, or His life or teachings, much at all. We hear the stories at church, if we go to church, and then leave them behind. It’s a sham; it’s disgusting – but yes, you’re right. That’s my own disgust, not His.
Q. So why the disgust?
A. Because — it used to be — there was family. There was connection, there was warmth. We opened gifts. We had a Christmas tree. I played the piano, and we sang carols together.
Q. What happened to all that?
A. At some point, I just became — I don’t know. Uninvited. Mom and Dad are long gone, there isn’t a “parent’s house” anymore. I tried to reestablish family, but I failed.
Q. Why is everything about your personal success or failure?
A. I don’t know. My dad was kinda hard on me, kept saying I couldn’t do anything right. I just want to prove that I can do some things right. When I get something right, I feel warm inside. Like loved.
A. Yes. Loved. God loves me because He lets me get some things right.
Q. Isn’t that a rather limited view of love?
A. It’s a start.
Q. Wouldn’t you have started long ago?
A. Of course. But maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.
Q. What do you mean?
A. It might not be in my destiny for me to be a very successful family man.
Q. But are you content to be alone?
A. Usually. But not on Christmas. And not lately, to be honest with you. Ever since my daughter left, just kinda — lonely, and feeling like I failed.
Q. How is it that Christmas brings about these feelings of discontent?
A. It is on Christmas that the pain of knowing that other people are with family, seeming to have a good time, is most highlighted. The pain that I am excluded — for some reason. Naturally this leads to misery. Especially when combined with the fact that everything closes down. No food services. No Starbucks, no MacDonald’s. No library. No restaurants. How do I get food? I have to stock up — well, you know, you get through the season, you get through the day. I’m thinking MacDonald’s might be open till noon on some kind of truncated schedule. Might as well hoof it down there once this thing’s over.
Q. So that is your idea of Christmas? Spending the morning at a McDonald’s?
A. No. My idea is still to gather around somewhere where there’s family and play a piano — but that’s long past.
Q. Could it not also be future?
A. Do I have a very good history at holding a family together?
Q. Could you have given up too easily?
Q. Might you be blaming yourself too much?
Q. So what is your strategy? How will you get through the day?
A. Well – I can start by repenting.
Q. What sin have you committed?
A. I mean – repenting of my attitude. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. I lack faith right now.
Q. How can you get faith?
A. By choosing it.
Q. And what then?
A. Um – I can pray. I’ll start praying again.
Q. Why and when did you stop?
A. It was a few days back, after — something horrible happened personally, involving the loss of a friend — or maybe just the misplacement of the friend — she did wish me a happy Christmas back this morning, by text —
Q. Then she has not abandoned you, has she?
A. Maybe not. Then again, she might have just been being nice.
Q. Isn’t that a start?
A. Yeah. Lots of things can be starts.
Q. So what’s the strategy?
A. You make it sound like I’m fighting a war.
Q. Aren’t you?
A. I shouldn’t be. I should just be surrendering, trusting in God, having faith, looking expectantly for the good that will inevitably come . . .
Q. On this horrible day of Christmas?
A. You said it.
Q. I’m curious, though. Why did the severance with your friend cause you to stop praying?
A. She has always reflected Christ in my life. I can’t explain it. Maybe I put too much of a burden on her. There were times when nobody else even believed I was a Christian, and yet she still had faith in me. And now she’s gone.
Q. Can you — pray anyway?
A. And not be reminded of her? I can’t even read my Bible anymore. I read it — but it’s not the same. It’s as though I’m reading her Bible, not mine.
Q. So you’re — experiencing loss?
A. Loss upon loss. Here I’ve already given up. I’ll just say it:
Christmas in America is a time for people of privilege to enjoy the presence of other people of privilege. They could at least invite those who lack over to their houses. But they don’t. And what’s that got to do with the so-called spirit of Christmas? It’s not spiritual in any sense to exclude others from a gathering that is supposed to be held holy and pleasing in the eyes of God.
Q. Come on now! Do you truly believe that Christmas has been reduced to only this?
A. Only this and worse. I used to have a friend. And I don’t any longer.
Q. But don’t you have a friend in Jesus?
A. I do. And honestly, thank you for reminding me. If I can just make my mind turn to Him – maybe when I’m on the way to that McDonald’s — I bet they’re open — and it can’t possibly be as bad as that one Christmas was when I was homeless and it was raining — and nobody would let us in . . .
Q. Your Christmas has been a lot worse than this one, hasn’t it?
A. Well yeah – it beats that one year, I think it was 2015, the only people I saw all day were about twenty-five other angry homeless people, it was pouring rain, I remember logging onto Facebook and just screaming at everybody — it just seemed heartless that they could keep flashing all these festivities on their timelines — if one even suggested being invited over on Christmas Day, they made you feel like you were a horrible person for even thinking such a thing . . .
Q. But you are not homeless now, are you?
A. No I’m not.
Q. And have you not become heartless in your own rite?
A: I have not!
Q. How many homeless people are you letting in on Christmas?
A. I’ve let a lot of homeless people in this house, and you know it.
Q. What about Christmas?
A. You know I have my reasons.
Q. Didn’t they all have their reasons?
A. No doubt. To put it mildly, to let strangers inside your house is risky business. But I wasn’t a stranger to any of those people I was buzzing on Christmas Day on Facebook in the rain that day. They all knew me. They knew exactly what my situation was.
Q. And their response was?
A. Denial and disdain.
Q. Why do you think that was?
A. Who likes a party–pooper? Why should I be raining on their parade?
Q. You’re not raining on them now, are you?
A. Not that I know of — unless some of the more lurkish among them are reading these words, and feeling the storm.
Q. And you’re not being rained on now either, are you?
A. More like snowed on. But not at the moment, no. I’m indoors – and I should be grateful.
Q. Are you?
A. Grateful? One wishes the word did not apply. But yes, come to think of it, I am grateful. I should be, after all. Things could be a lot worse. I could be robbed of anything approaching a First Amendment right in some parts of the world. I could be put to death just for writing these words.
Q. So – what’s your strategy?
A. Well . . . I don’t know how strategic it is, but I just made a decision. This tuneup needs to be wrapped up anyway. It’s dragging on kinda long.
Q. What’s your decision?
A. I’m going to go down to that McDonald’s and find someone more miserable than myself.
Q. Then what?
A. I’ll take it from there. I’m at least usually a happy person. I can share my happiness with them, even if I don’t experience it at the time.
Q. But won’t you just be just like the people on Facebook, flaunting their festivities?
A. I’ll try not to be. Thanks for the warning.
Q. Anything else?
A. Not that I can think of.
Q. Cold feet?
Q. Just do it?
A. Wish me luck.
The Questioner is silent.
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