Christmas 2010. I’ve never experienced another one like it. Oh, 2009 was similar in many ways. But 2010. There are some profound differences. For all of us.

A year ago, there were some foreclosures in our town. Now there are more added to those from the year before. Used to be the more affluent among us lived on the hill above the empty houses. Now the only difference in the vacant homes is the size of the uphill mortgage.

There seem to be fewer homes lit with outside lights and the other displays of the season. I’m sure electrical rates are about the same this year. More than likely the family income is not.

Car dealers a Christmas ago had reduced the number of new models on the lot and there was bare concrete where the previously floored stock had been. Now, a year later, many of these same dealers have branched out into larger used car lots … excuse me … pre-owned lots because that’s what’s keeping the overhead paid.

Christmas merchandising started about Halloween this year, far ahead of the traditional Thanksgiving date. By Thanksgiving in our town, we were already seeing “Christmas sales,” especially at the larger chain stores.

Columns of seasonal advertising and inserts in the local paper are fewer. There seem to be far more public service messages than paid ads on our local radio and TV stations.

Fewer businesses are planning the annual Christmas party. Fewer restaurants are hawking Christmas dinners for those who might want to eat out that day.

Speaking of eating, food banks in our town … and I’m sure in yours … are trying to meet record demand just for the basics of human dietary needs. Missions and other traditional stops for the hungry and the homeless have lines outside the doors at times. Food needs are considerably higher in our neighborhood than 2009.

We’re told by our school administrators there are more homeless kids this year. Our Rotary club has earmarked dollars that traditionally went to underprivileged kids needing toys for Christmas to buying toothbrushes, deodorant, soap and underwear for children living in cars, under bridges or in a vacant building. That’s new for 2010.

Nationally, we see a president seemingly unable or unwilling to exert the power of the executive branch of government locked in a no-win contest with a congress hellbent on becoming the pre-eminent voice in our democratic system. Both are wrong. Just how wrong we’ll know by Christmas 2011.

Last Christmas, there were discordant voices in our streets. Loud in protest but short on workable solutions for our nation’s problems. Now, a year later, some of those from the streets, with little knowledge of the workings of government, are in elective office where they must do just that: make government work. There aren’t enough of them to derail the system. But there are enough not caring to compromise, unwilling to learn and intransigent in thought, to keep us from solving some of the worst political and economic problems our nation has seen.

We are about to watch legislatures of the various states convene to deal with monumental issues of economics, up to and including life and death. It’s already started in Arizona. Legislators in other states will be asked to deal with the same issue. Decisions of who lives and who dies were not on the minds of most of us when we were marking our ballots in November. That’s different from Christmas 2009.

Yes, there is much about Christmas 2010 that is different. We are not enjoying just another year on the calendar with a continuation of comfortable family or national quiet. We’re all feeling pressures not experienced in a long time. Or ever, by some. We’re making do with less in some cases; without at times. We’re being asked to help others even as we consider whether we, too, need help.

But it’s the sameness of the season that should occupy our minds even as we deal with harsher economic times. That “sameness” is, as they say commercially, “the reason for the season.”

“For unto you a child is born.” A child who changed each of our lives more than any economic condition; more than any legislative action; more than anything else that could happen to us in this world of ours.

Whatever the different human conditions we experience between this Christmas and the last … this Christmas or any that ever was … the life-altering universal gift of the first Christmas is unchanged.

Because of that first Christmas, we have reason to hope. We have reason to love. All in a gift that never changes.

One Response to “Christmas 2010 is different but still the same”

  1. Zariel Says:

    What a neat article. I had no inkilng.