“Even stop lights/ Blink a bright red and green…” –Silver Bells
In the realm of retail, Christmas means working harder, faster, longer hours. There is nothing particularly joyful about this time of year. We are overworked, underappreciated and often the target of Scrooges, Grinches, and people simply tired of lines. It’s not the happiest season of the mall.
The other night I was leaving my job at midnight. As I walked to my car I reveled in the stillness and quite of the empty parking lot. I drove down the length of the mall, a little irritated at the late hour, ready to be home and in bed. It was a striking sight, however, to see the empty street. No cars lined up for spots or shoppers dashing across streets. Bags didn’t cram carts and noise didn’t bombard my ears. It was literally a breath of fresh, cool air. Despite the oddly pretty solitude of an empty mall, I still resented working so late. As I came around a bend in the road, all that frustration and cynicism and ugliness melted away.
Through the buildings, I could see the Hilton hotel. Illuminated in its windows was “JOY.” Simple, succinct and glowing before me was a reminder of what Christmas really is. This is a time of pure, true joy. It’s surrounded by family and traditions that I cherish. It’s a time when friendships rekindle and people want to be close in ways they don’t at other times. It’s delicious food and presents and parties. But, more than anything, it’s hope. The birth of Christ meant hope for mankind, for a broken people. It is hope of relationships being mended with our Creator and each other and a hope of life. There is nothing more joyful than hope.
I have found myself feeling especially happy lately. It has been a lasting, deep happiness that I don’t really remember enjoying throughout my life. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that this is a time of year that I love for the aforementioned reasons and more. It’s also the result of different friends and interactions and reflection. But it’s a feeling that, more than anything I think I’ve felt before, feels like lasting joy. It was such a small reminder of the big things in life. Not the customers who complain and cut in line, or the inadequacy of my Christmas budget. I have a family I love, friends that I love, a job and home, food and health. There is no reason not to be joyful. I know that sounds so trite and insincere, but seeing it blazing across a building, I realized that Christmas is above all a time of joy.
“Tis the season to be jolly and joyous/ With a burst of pleasure, we feel it all right/ It’s the season when the saints can employ us/ To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive…” –The Muppets’ Christmas Carol