“It's the season of possible miracle cures
Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
Where time begins to fade
And age is welcome home”
—“The Atheist Christmas Carol” by Vienna Teng
I grew up in Southern California, where December rarely gets below a crisp 45° and the outdoor malls put colored lights on the palm trees. While TV and movies would depict the holidays as a cozy time for families to snuggle up and watch the snow while decorating their homes, I usually found it hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Maybe that’s why my favorite Christmas songs are about how it feels to be out of sync with others.
When my friend introduced me to “The Atheist Christmas Carol” a few years ago, I rolled my eyes. But she urged me to listen to it… and I fell in love. The quiet piano, the beautiful lyrics, the simple message: it all makes me remember what I love about this time of the year without being saccharine.
After all, there's nothing simple about the holidays. As the year starts to wind down, things seem to move faster and faster, and it’s easy to let that rush get the best of you. Weekends can be booked with parties; evenings are often spent doing shopping or preparing. When the sun has already set by the time you get off of work, it can be disheartening. The emphasis on being with friends and family can be challenging emotionally and spiritually. Joy can feel empty when it is compulsory. The promise of liberation is hard fought and well earned.
In this time of lights in the darkness, warmth in the cold, and music in the silence, let us also remember to appreciate the dark, the cold, and the quiet; to celebrate by doing simple acts of kindness for one another; to recall that the sun will come again.
In the meantime, we can be together in the complexity of it all. If you're struggling in this holiday season, you are not alone. Please reach out to someone for connection (it’s possible they're struggling, too). And don’t forget we love you. Joy can be fleeting, but love is real.
In this time of endings and beginnings, may we find ways to bring more love and joy into the world. May we rest in the complexity of the world and find comfort in the mystery. May our lives be filled with gratitude and grace. And may we know that none of it has to be done alone.