Christmas for me, as it is for millions of others, is often a melancholy affair. Sadly, most of my family died early in my life, so the holidays always have a tinge of sadness. Since then, however, I am blessed to have married a smart, beautiful woman, gaining her fantastic family in the bargain. Even as our clan has grown by a son and a soon-to-arrive daughter, a certain feeling of loss remains. For me, the song that best nails the dichotomy is Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The song drips regret and longing, hope and joy, and Garland singing it is ironic and fitting. The entanglement of our beloved Dorothy with, in reality, a troubled and anguished woman, embodies the desperate hope in a seemingly hopeless world at Christmastime (and year-around). Interestingly, most do not know that the song was even darker when first written (Please see this Entertainment Weekly article). The original version:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last,
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, pop that champagne cork,
Next year we will all be living in New York.

No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.

But at least we all will be together, if the Fates allow,
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Anyway, Christmas has long been a conflicted time for me and now is no different. The wondrous joy of sharing the holiday with my 2-year old son is tempered by the knowledge of the world into which he will one day go. How the heck did we get here? Though not perfect, the Founding Fathers created a nation the likes of which the world had not seen. Founded on Christian principles (do not let the atheists fool you), their grand experiment granting power to the people allowed the country and the world to flourish as never before. Technology that was little changed from the time of Christ suddenly, under this newfound freedom and faith, exploded after the late 1700s. Candles gave way to electricity; horses to trains to cars to planes and incredibly, only a few decades later, spaceships to the moon; lifespans grew from a handful of decades to 100+ years. The list of wonders is endless and all occurred, worldwide, due to this Christian nation granting freedom and self-rule. What a blessing.

Sadly, over the years, things have changed. The precious gifts bequeathed by our forefathers are taken for granted and desecrated; the bedrock of Christian principles and founding documents is discarded. Those that create and build are vilified and reviled. Seemingly, we have slipped from the shining city on a hill to a cesspool of laziness, perversion, hatred, idiocy and misplaced ideals. Amazingly, we went from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson, FDR and barack obama. In just the last 60 years, we have transitioned from the “greatest generation” that sacrificed all, to the worst, expecting all for free. We devolved from a Conservative and Christian principle of teaching a man to fish instead of simply giving him one, to a society that espouses Government as the answer to all problems and the supplier of all desires.

For a “glass is half empty” person as I often am, what do I see in the world today? A smooth talker teleprompter-reader that slithered into power, sharing the wealth and apologizing for American Exceptionalism instead of embracing our bedrock principles. Occupiers overrunning production centers, demanding something for nothing. Atheists battling believers at every turn, demanding their eyes never be scorched by the image of a babe in a manger. Radical islamists, instead of following a Christlike belief that one should be loving to all, following a book and leader that says “Convert or die.” Men in positions of trust and prominence raping children. A man being mocked and ridiculed for simply adhering to his faith on a football field. Individuals, too lazy to work, stealing Salvation Army charity kettles. Idiots being electrocuted while stealing copper wire instead of using that energy to work for an honest wage. Perverse academics at institutions of “higher” learning (and sometime much earlier) indoctrinating our children into the belief that our history is fraught with evil and our ways corrupt (while they charge more every year and trick students into thinking the world owes them a living). I even see a Christmas Holiday tree in our nation’s capitol bereft of ornaments mentioning Christmas or Christ while ornaments praising obama are evident. Today, it seems more people know the words to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” than “Joy to the World.”

Have yourself a merry, little Christmas, huh? Sigh…

In a world where mentioning the word Christmas seems taboo and faithless actions abound, it sometimes appears to me (and perhaps to you) that all is hopeless and another Noah-worthy flood is in order. But then, magical moments rekindle the simple truth within me. I am reminded that Christmas teaches the glass is always half full and that is the hope to which I adhere. For every video I see of a single mother of 15 saying the world owes her “repercussions” and help caring for the kids, I see stories of promising new AIDS vaccines or footage of medicine granting someone the ability to hear for the first time in decades. I read of anonymous citizens paying for the toys of other families on layaway at Kmart and witness stores returning to the refrain “Merry Christmas.” I see a small child on Santa’s lap at the mall or hear a Jesus-based Christmas song on the radio. I feel my little girl kick inside of her mother or I see the wonder in my boy’s eyes as he watches the choir sing “Away in a Manger” in church.

These things give me hope and remind me that the world was darker, colder and more hopeless at one time, yet we survived due to a small gift. On a night, over 2,000 years ago, when life was often vicious, brutal and unforgiving, when the world was expecting God’s wrath to appear with a sword in hand, He instead sent His Son. A small, defenseless, human child was given to us as a reminder of the good in all. Though incredibly difficult, it is that simple truth I try to remember when all seems grim. Thus I wish you all Merry Christmas. Men and women of all faiths, beliefs (or non-beliefs) and persuasions, I hope you are greeted on Sunday, and always, with peace and joy. Regardless of whether you believe or not, the fact remains that a small child blessed us with His presence and does still if you only look. The tale of Judy Garland’s “Merry Little Christmas” truly sums it up. Our world, like the song, may have started out dark and depressing but it is up to us to replace the gloom with a joyous refrain. May we always remember to override the sentiments “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past,” to Jesus’ message of “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”

God bless us, every one.