December 24, 2003

... And on Earth, Peace Among Men

GIVEN THAT THIS IS CHRISTMAS EVE, we naturally recall the words of the heavenly host which so long ago announced Christ's birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace among men." Unfortunately, because Man has fallen from Grace and has a knack for ruining a good thing, Christmas today does not focus on such a message. Instead, society's preparations for the holiday seem to embody a different Biblical message: "I bring not peace, but the sword!"

OK, so that's a bit over the top. However, the thought did flash through our mind today, twenty minutes after we made the foolish decision to venture out into the muck on Christmas Eve Day. Good Lord. We have never seen our local mall so packed; have never seen traffic there that bad; have never seen so many otherwise-intelligent people driven out of their senses. (And all we wanted was lunch and The Economist!)

At least that's the only rationale of which we could think to explain just WHY so many drivers decided they'd go ahead and BLOCK A FREEWAY OFF-RAMP INTERSECTION. It also, we thought, explained why people were driven to anger upon learning a mall kiosk was out of Britney Spears calendars; explained why people waited until the very last minute to buy their gifts.

But we were heartened to see that despite the crowds and malaise and exhaustion, that people still seemed to have the right idea when it came to the holiday itself. For in the afternoon, as behind its veil of clouds the sun crept lower in the sky, something wonderful happened:

People started going home.

We can assure you that this was not merely a few tired shoppers leaving the establishment; this was a veritable exodus. Hundreds of drivers, forming a line of cars stretching what must have been halfway around the mall in question, patiently waited their turn to leave the grounds. It was the first moment of order, pure and blissful order, that we had seen the entire day. And it was good.

So perhaps our commercialism hasn't screwed up Christmas entirely. Yes, we focus too much on the shopping and the presents and the fourth-quarter numbers and the omnipresent sales which desperate retailers grant the multitudes at this time every year. But when all was said and done, folks still seemed to remember the things that mattered: their family and their friends, the time they would share together this evening, and the small joys of simply going home for a nice long weekend.

And, as midnight approaches tonight, we think they will probably also remember the force behind the Christmas holiday itself. Not St Nicholas, but his Superior.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 24, 2003 05:03 PM | TrackBack