It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, or not | Lloyd E. Sheaffer

People living out the true Christmas spirit would refute the Scrooge-like ‘Let’em get a job’ or ‘They’ve made their choice to live on the streets’ comments cast down by so many folks living in comfortable homes

December 21, 2021 6:30 am

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — NOT. At least in terms of the cloying view of Christmas presented in the songs we have been hearing in stores and on the radio since before Halloween decorations were stored in the basement.

I suggest—fully aware of the cynical undertones of my proposal—that we need some new secular Christmas melodies that reflect the world we now live in rather than the long-gone world represented in many traditional holiday songs.

For instance, Meredith Wilson’s seventy-year-old song has become a classic Christmas song, but the imagery from 1951 doesn’t ring true today.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Everywhere you go

Take a look at the five and ten, it’s glistening once again

With candy canes and silver lanes that glow

Five and ten?  Since today’s prices are 10.69 times higher than average prices since 1951, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, A Dollar General store would provide a better image for Christmas shoppers. In reality, though, a modern-day Meredith would be writing about Amazon or Walmart as shopping bastions.

A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots

Is the wish of Barney and Ben

A pistol that shoots? If Barney and Ben received a toy “pistol that shoots” today, they risk being reported by nervous neighbors to law enforcement whose jumpy officers might draw a bead on them with their own 9mm Glocks. In these dangerous times Barney and Ben better ask for a Nerf Elite 2.0 Commander RD-6, a toy that could not be mistaken for a real weapon.

Dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk

Is the hope of Janice and Jen

Dolls for Janice and Jen? Nowadays Janice and Jen are likely to ask Santa for a “pistol that shoots,” and Barney and Ben would not be out of line to request “Dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk.” Gender roles and stereotypes have, thank goodness, evolved since the post-WWII ‘50s.

There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well

It’s the sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow

A tree in the Grand Hotel? In 2021 it is likely the glistening tree in the “Grand Hotel” is a pre-lit, petroleum-based, artificial evergreen adorning the sterile lobby of a Country Inn and Suites property nestled next to an interstate highway interchange.

That doesn’t mind the snow? Snow is becoming a dissipating commodity in our region, it seems, especially at Christmas time. According to records from the National Weather Service, Harrisburg has not had an official white Christmas—at least 1 inch of snow on the ground on the morning of Dec. 25—since 2002 when the area received 8 inches of the fluffy stuff from the clouds. We can ascribe the brown-ground Christmas mornings to global warming/climate change, a phenomenon still being disputed by many anti-science types, despite published warnings from Swedish physicist, chemist, and Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius in 1896.

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole; “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams; “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives. We become so wrapped up in the unreal worlds proffered by these and other songs that we are enticed to overlook the real challenges confronting us in 2021 and the opportunities to make the Nativity angels’ proclamation of “peace on Earth, goodwill to men” something more than a greeting card catchphrase.

If we believed in goodwill for all people, we would not have 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the United States experiencing food insecurity. Our citizenry would be demanding a fair living wage for all workers. We would be voting out those elected officials whose allegiance is to exploitative big businesses rather than to their hungry constituents and their families.  There would be plenty of “homemade pumpkin pies” on every table in the nation.

If we felt genuine Christmas compassion, we would not have 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America; these folks would, instead, be residing in safe, clean, affordable abodes, not living in cardboard hovels in alleys. People living out the true Christmas spirit would refute the Scrooge-like “Let’em get a job” or “They’ve made their choice to live on the streets” comments cast down by so many folks living in comfortable homes.

If we citizens desire peace on Earth, we would respond to the 21,570 murders in the country last year. “It is the largest increase in 100 years,” Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at National Center for Health Statistics, said when referring to the FBI report showing a 30% increase in homicides the U.S. from 2019 to 2020. With 7.9 billion people, peace on Earth might be a pipe dream, but peace in the United States is not an unreachable goal. Those who seek peace need to raise voices and votes to rid our legislators who are beholden to the undue influence of gun lobbyists and financed by ill-informed, misled Second Amendment apologists.

If peace and goodwill are to be more than a slogan on a paid store advertisement in a newspaper or pop-up online, our nation would be promoting and upholding the dignity of all humankind. We would be welcoming immigrants to share the bounty and freedoms of our nations. Whites and blacks and browns and reds and rainbows would all be treated fairly and respectfully in our communities. Elders would be esteemed, and youngsters would live free of abuse.

While decorated trees, flying reindeer, perilous gift shopping excursions, and an overweight hirsute elf receive much of the holiday adulation, we should not forget that Christmas is at its heart a religious commemoration for Christians, the birth of Jesus, the Christ. For believers, Christmas is much more than a time that represents, on average, 19% of retail sales for a year.

The real gift at Christmas is not something we give; it is what we receive through our faith in the Babe in a manger. For Christians, and frankly for many other religious followers whose doctrinal tenets often mirror those of Christianity, the gift from the Christ offers the freedom to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and emulate him in how we live with others.

Christmas celebrates the beginning of Jesus’ life; it is near the end of Jesus’ that his adherents receive their instructions: “. . .  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”        (Matthew 25:35-36 [NRSV]).

Feeding, Welcoming, Clothing, Healing, Visiting, Loving—these are the gifts we should be giving if we live fully and intentionally in the Spirit of Christmas. 

These, too, are the endowments our country must provide to all its inhabitants if we are to uphold the principles of our Founding Fathers’ intentions: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Babe born in a stable came also to provide a way to true life, true liberty, and true happiness.  We as Christians and/or US citizens and/or human beings must pass on these gifts, too.

And the thing that’ll make ’em ring is the carol that you sing

Right within your heart

Meredith Wilson got that one right.

Merry Christmas.

Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Capital-Stars Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].

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Lloyd E. Sheaffer
Lloyd E. Sheaffer

Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].