Some thirty years ago, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the reclamation of a gorgeous seventy-three room colonial-style mansion, as well as the property and numerous out-buildings that were part of this massive, rolling estate. It had set empty, hauntingly still and seemingly comatose for several decades, with suffocating layers of dust, endless rooms marred to embarrassment by peeling paint, and massive walls stripped nearly naked by faded and peeling wallpaper. All of the morbid decay was edged by generations of lacey cobwebs that seemed like thin, sporadically hung sheets of tissue paper. There was something terribly sad and forlorn about it all, like when something majestic is abandoned and entirely forgotten in the abandonment; something like beauty relegated to oblivion.
It was a very odd and strange sort of dichotomy in that you could clearly see the tremendous architectural beauty of the buildings, the opulent and exquisite designs within and without, as well as the ornate landscaping hidden behind the decay and inattention. Yet, it was something that was not so lost that it couldn’t be reclaimed and restored to its former glory. The results of abandonment and foolish disregard could be undone if one had eyes willing to see beyond the carnage of decay, a heart bent on reclaiming that which should never have been lost, and an unshakeable belief in what once was which drove the belief that, ‘what was,’ could be once again.
Christmas seems achingly hollow; that something core has been disregarded. It seems that it might have been something rich, wonderful and life transforming. Somehow it seems that it too had been ornate, wondrous and marvelous like the old, abandoned estate. Christmas too seems to have been marred to embarrassment and stripped naked. It seems more like a tossed relic; being an ever so slight handful of leftover pieces and parts of something that at one time was precious beyond description. There’s something inherently majestic in this holiday that seems to have been abandoned by us; something flippantly cast aside, something that was foolishly abandoned and was tragically forgotten in the abandonment. And so it has set for who knows how long, in decay and disrepair.
What is Christmas?
I think that we know that Christmas is a whole lot more than we’ve allowed it to be, or caused it to be, whatever the case might be. That there’s something inherently deep in this season that’s somehow core to each of us. Christmas bespeaks of a desire to believe that hope is worth hoping in, that the world has the potential to be better than it’s become and that each one of us is something more than we’ve allowed ourselves to believe. Christmas seems to say that paradise lost and longed for does not have to be paradise given up on. That all the good that we hope for is indeed reasonable to hope for.
I think we know that Christmas somehow exposes the hidden richness of all humanity. It gives reason and opportunity for humanity to prove its worth by turning on itself with grace, being wildly merciful to others, loving lavishly (which includes loving oneself), and stepping up on behalf of our fellowman rather than stepping away from them. Christmas is about knowing that whatever we’re all worth, it’s enough to be sacrificed for, which means we’re worth a whole lot. It’s a vision that illustrates in broad relief something great that’s been lost while delivering a timeless and passionate plea to restore what’s been lost. It’s a conviction that all of this can yet be redeemed. It’s a message of worth and hope; total worth and endless hope. It’s the kind of message that’s infinitely bigger than all of us but offered to all of us.
In time, the old mansion and grounds of the estate were restored to their original splendor. Because of that, there’s been a reversal of sorts. The photos from thirty years ago tell the story of the peeling paint, faded wallpaper, overgrown grounds and the dilapidated state of it all. They are photos of what was once lost; what it all once looked like. Yet, there were those who refused to let be it be lost, and they reclaimed it. It is now wondrous indeed. Christmas is lost in disrepair, but it remains to be wholly and marvelously reclaimed.
December 13, 2014