I once heard a comedian give a profound insight on self-awareness. He said, "If a five-year-old says you're fat, you are." You can usually count on the truth of it because five-year-olds aren't sophisticated enough to shield people from reality. If such an insensitive comment comes to you, it will likely be the right thing to do to teach the kid to be more sensitive, but however he needs to be corrected, the fact remains; you are.
This comes to mind at Christmas because for many people, whether Christmas is celebrated, lamented, or distorted, the experience of Christmas itself works a lot like the voice of that five-year-old.
Christmas is the Christian holiday which commemorates the beginning of the most important event in the history of the Universe, by which the Uncreated God, "became flesh and made his dwelling among us," in order to empower people to live the lives they were created to live and to save them from sin and death and Hell. The most appropriate way to celebrate this event is, of course, to love other people indiscriminately like snow falling on a busy city. But whether you are one to stop work to make snow angels, or one who scoffs at those who believe in angels, the way we celebrate Christmas is a mirror that reflects who we are.
For many, Christmas is the photo-negative of The Purge. Instead of angry people taking advantage of the temporary suspension of laws against violence to wantonly dish out pain and revenge on those they resent, these people get giddy over the once-a-year opportunity to express pent-up love and gratitude. These are those who get rapturous over the sight of outgoing party invitations and present tags with other people's names in the "to" line. Such are those who feel more hope than trepidation when even the most difficult family member comes to dinner. At Christmas, these people are like (some similes can't be improved) a kid at Christmas. It's just who they are.
Others have no interest in making a good Christmas but only a good Christmas card. These are people whose lack of interest in actively knowing and loving people through the year in no way dampens their zeal to send pristine, family Christmas cards and Facebook posts. These are the sentimentalists who love the feelings of Christmas even though they aren't interested in the relational realities that should be the basis for those feelings. They are the Christmas equivalents of students who are fixated on GPAs but uninterested in education. Such people are not excited that everyone's coming over to their house, but place great value on their (and everyone else's) awareness that Christmas was at their house. That's just who they are.
Then there are the true Grinches. They neither care about other people nor about what some people will think about them for not caring. And, of course, they are only so callous toward people because they have been so mistreated by the world, and so they spend Christmas as they spend the rest of the year, comforting themselves in indignant isolation with the knowledge that at least they have always been in the right. It is who they are.
Others will use Christmas as an excuse to party (that is, party in the empty-hearted, self-degrading sense). These are ones for whom "drunken debauchery" is a cute, condescending reference to the naive prudes who would use the same phrase to describe certain Christmas parties. Those who party hard at Christmas are a lot like someone celebrating their completion of rehab at a local bar, not because they falter, but with a smirk and a wink because all the cool kids know that rehab is a joke anyway. That's just who they are.
Others, with much more gravity and self-respect, don't mind having a glass of champagne and some dessert with friends, but are really perturbed at how the whole event fosters among the ignorant that religious fable that has been such a hindrance to "progress." They can't rationally comprehend how God could come as a child in a manger. And since their capacity of rational comprehension is the gold standard for determining what can and cannot exist, they're miffed, like an erudite, early-twentieth-century physics professor rolling his eyes at the gullibility of the stupid undergraduates who go on and on about the fad called quantum physics. They're way too advanced for such nonsense. That's just who they are.
But one of the things that makes the news of Christmas "good news that will cause great joy for all the people," is that the one who came to dwell among us has made it so that we don't have to stay the way we are. Christmas leaves us with two options; we can either stay who we are or allow ourselves to be transformed into the people we were meant to be. As Mary sings in response to the news from the angel Gabriel,
"His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:50-53)