We have survived another holiday hiatus! I realize most folks would not put it this way, but it is a good way to understand the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s Day combination. I also realize the word, hiatus, is not a word you regularly hear in a McDonald’s coffee conversation. But it is a good word. It means a gap or break. In the way it is being used here, it means a break or interruption in time or routine. Oddly enough, the root meaning goes back to the Latin word for “yawn.” So we have just come through a big yawn in routine time!
A hiatus is often a very good thing. It is not unusual for people to get tired or even bored with their routines. “Same job day after day,” is a common lament. Even those of us who like our jobs are often eager for a break. And certainly those who no longer have jobs because of age, infirmities, etc. welcome a break in their routine. Busy people need one kind of break; bored folks need a different kind of break.
It is not unusual for the holiday hiatus to bring people into our lives whom we do not regularly see. Kids come home; parents go to kids’ houses. Cousins show up; uncles and aunts arrive with their stories and tales. Good friends get together to remember and to anticipate.
One of the ways I experience the holiday hiatus is the disruption of my normal sense of time. Because Christmas and New Year’s Day are always specific days, i.e. Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, they can fall on any of the seven days of the week. So for two weeks I cannot figure out which are weekdays and which are weekend days. At least in my life, Saturday and Sundays are different than the other five days of the week. But during the holiday hiatus, this is not true.
But now the hiatus is finished. Normal time returns. Mondays will feel like Mondays again. This awareness does not lead me to any significant theological or philosophical insight. In and of itself time does not bring its own meaning. I am convinced human beings make meaning. We might inherit it from our culture, from our parents, from our friends and peer group. Or we might make our own meaning. And for this I am grateful.
I like the fact that meaning is made. As a Christian, I can ponder some of the stories of this past Christmas season and remember how that Christmas story is a form of meaning making. All the stories about baby Jesus, the manger, the shepherds, and so on were stories that began the process of creating a way to understand the meaning of this birth.
My choice is to decide whether any of that Christmas story has meaning for me. And if it has any meaning, does that meaning extend now into my ordinary time? Or do I simply set it aside until next December? I will share how it is meaningful to me now in normal time.
Primarily, the Christmas story is a story about God’s involvement in human history. The same is true for Hanukkah. It also is a story about God’s involvement. I do not believe God’s involvement was a one-time or even two-time deal. I believe Hanukkah and Christmas are “paradigm stories.” A paradigm is an outstanding example or model of the way things happen. Hence, we celebrate them as holidays and, rightly, there is a holiday hiatus to focus that celebration.
The good news is God continues to become involved in human history---in yours and, hopefully, mine. I want to be open to that involvement. I want to do what I can to intend it and incarnate it just like I think Jesus wanted to intend and incarnate.
My desire and goal is not to let any ordinary day be so routinely lived that it has no meaning. If that happens, I will be more than disappointed. I will have failed. So let this day be the first day of my success…and yours, too.