***A man and a woman walk in together. It is instantly clear that they are the kind of people who are irreverent, funny, sarcastic, popular, successful and depressed. They're clearly "just friends" in the way that middle-aged-several-times-divorced people are.
"Oh, Gaaaawd," sneers the man, running a hand with a large ring on it through salt and pepper hair. "The most wonderful time of the year, eh?"
The woman gives a laugh and fishes in her LV purse for lipstick and her wallet, avoiding his eyes. "I mean, I guess it's nice, but..."
"Nice!" The man seems indignant, and for a moment I think I might get to see what's really getting to him about Christmas. Quickly recovering himself, he lapses back into his lax, sarcastic tone. "It's just morose," he says, "I mean, it's a holiday for religious nuts and kids."
"Yeah," the woman agrees, "I'm not particularly religious, so it's not that special. I mean, whatever," she concludes, with a sigh that belies the season's lack of sparkle.
As the barista hands over their drinks with a flip of her Santa hat and a cheery "Merry Christmas!" both look at each other with a jaded laugh. As they walk out, the man says, "Like hell, it's Merry. I'm just going to drink all day..."
The woman returns, "Now that sounds like a holiday!" and they walk out of earshot, drinking their five-dollar coffee and laughing at the foolishness of the old women, kids and "religious nuts" who get joy out of this ridiculous season.
Why do people resist this holiday so much? Why is it more fashionable to be irreverent and hurried than touched and full of wonder?
I think it's because it reveals our mortality and the smallness of our strivings - and if there's anything that the upper echelon doesn't want to be reminded of, it's that they don't really matter.
Yearly traditions are admittedly a small thing. Twinkle lights, homemade nativity scenes, candlelit services and morning excitement can get tarnished by time. We grow up and are more than willing to trade the 6 a.m. gift exchange for a few more hours of sleep and a sedate cup of coffee at 9 before the wrapping paper starts flying. What is harder to get used to is what these traditions mean. Well-worn carols sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to 98 Degrees mean something that even the most jaded among us cannot shake.
For if the foolishness of 24/7 Carols on Coast 103.5, Holiday latte flavors, and children's excitement means more than that it's just December - then what value have we lost in the rest of life? If one month can hold the salvation of mankind, peace on Earth, goodwill to men - what do the other 11 hold?
This is the great truth that keeps people like the Coffeeshop Couple from embracing Christmas. They are reminded of what they've lost and they cover over their despair with success and sarcasm - plugging the growing hole in their hearts with the clever cover-up that they're too sophisticated for such things.
For me, I'm proud to be a religious nut, and to unabashedly soak up a season built around a profound joy and irrefutable truth.
So here's to Christmas and the discomfort it causes - may it drive those like the Coffeeshop Couple to "the good tidings of great joy, which shall be for ALL people..."