A too short season ends with longing

Like many of you, the days leading up to Christmas day are my favorite of the entire year. The rush and keening torrents of activities, parties, and family get-togethers. As the old carol says: it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

At the same time, the first few days following Christmas are my least favorite.

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Rosencrantz & Guildenstern and Advent

In late December of 1991 I was invited by an artsy girlfriend of mine to accompany her family to a performance of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” at a nearby college.

Though I knew nothing about the play itself, I knew it had to have something to do with Shakespeare…  which was good enough for me.

If you’re unfamiliar with Tom Stoppard‘s brilliant play (or the hilariously-deadpan Gary Oldman/Tim Roth film version) it’s basically a “play within a play” with two minor characters as the main protagonists.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is knocked on its ear in this play, with the two titular characters bantering about contradictions, destiny, free will, and providence, with plenty of tautologies thrown in for good measure.

Picture a drunken John Calvin arguing with a sober Oscar Wilde and you start to get the idea.

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“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”

In the popular comedy “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” the titular character prays to an “8-pound 6-ounce newborn infant Jesus,” wearing “golden fleece diapers.”

When challenged on this by his wife, Ricky Bobby snaps back that he prefers to think of Jesus as a baby and so will continue to pray to Him as such.

Although the scene is blasphemous in many ways, it places a finger on how many people like to picture Jesus during the Christmas Season and why He is so popular this time of the year.

Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is cute and cuddly. He’s not the Prince of Heaven, the Savior of the World, the King of Kings, and the Lion of Judah.

More than anything else: He’s safe, because He’s just a sweet little baby.

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Sometimes it takes something drastic

A few days ago I was watching my stalwart and headstrong three-year-old son as he was playing near the edge of our front porch, a front porch that drops off at least two feet on one side.

“Come away from the edge,” I said. “Or you’ll mess around and hurt yourself.”

Sure enough, the little blonde-haired and blue-eyed darling stumbles and falls off. Uninjured, thankfully, but hurt just enough to make him whimper and maybe take his father’s counsel a little more serious. Maybe.

As I sit down to write my weekly column, on this the 70th anniversary of the sneak-attack by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor Naval Base, the one thing I thought about was the importance of learning from one’s experiences, especially when they include some manner of tragedy.

One added twist to the pain of learning things the “hard way” is when one learns after the fact how such calamity might have been avoided.

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