Apparently, the way to get grandchildren is to write a newspaper column that appears on Christmas Day.
The first time that happened for me, in 1998, our first grandson was here from Maryland, celebrating his very first Christmas. The second time it happened, this year, it’s his cousin in California who is celebrating his very first Christmas. I’m sure ancient astronaut theorists could come up with an astonishing explanation for this, but I can’t.
I am, however, thankful. I’ve had an uncomfortable year, healthwise, but I’m essentially all right, and the rest of our family is happy, healthy, and surprisingly well adjusted. That is so much more fortunate than many families that I can’t help feeling a little guilty about it, but I’m really thankful.
In fact, it occurs to me that I’m usually a lot more thankful on Christmas, the most complicated of all holidays, than I am on Thanksgiving. That’s odd, considering the whole idea of Thanksgiving is to be thankful, while nobody has ever agreed on what the whole idea of Christmas is.
For hundreds of years, it was assumed that early Christians celebrated Christ’s birth on Dec. 25 because the Romans were already celebrating the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, the first day that you can detect that the sun has begun to rise from it’s lowest angle at noon, 24.8 degrees around here.
The theory is that the Christians figured they could slip in a religious celebration and nobody would notice. Cynics would argue that’s still the way it is. Observant Christians slip in a religious celebration on the day that Santa Claus flies down from the North Pole, this year with a ridiculous fighter jet escort, and nobody notices.
Others claim we chose the 25th because Christ was conceived and died on the same day of the year, March 25, while one South Sider simply said it’s because “You’ve got to celebrate it some time, don’t you?”
I don’t care. I’m just thankful there’s a time of year, no matter when it is, that seems to bring out the kindness and the good in people. Actually, I’m somewhat more thankful that there’s still enough good in people that something can actually bring it out. I’ve often wondered about that, especially while watching the news.
I’m thankful that two-thirds of Americans are apparently incensed that Congress will cut off long-term unemployment benefits to more than a million people three days after Christmas. I’m thankful that there are more “Lay Away Santas” this year, people who pay the lay away bills of strangers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to bring their gifts home because they came up a little short.
I’m thankful that there are still men and women who volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless, that the forces of reason are resisting another headlong rush into war in Syria and Iran, and that millions of people who have lost or been denied health insurance, or reached their limit, will no longer have to suffer and die because they’re not rich.
I’m thankful that a tiny little girl, who tied her note to Santa to a balloon and let it float up into the sky, got the doll she wanted thanks to the stranger who found it and took the time to find her, despite the fact that she had only written her first name.
And I’m thankful that 10,000 people in Pennsylvania gathered around the house of a little 8-year-old girl, who may soon die of leukemia, and sang Christmas carols, just because she loves music and said she wanted to hear a few people singing carols on her last Christmas.
I think that refutes the idea that there are no more miracles. At Christmastime, it sometimes feels like the whole thing’s a miracle.