A college friend of mine once told me that while she didn't celebrate Christmas she appreciated aspects of it.
She observed the extra efforts Christians made to reconnect with old friends or perform kind gestures of friendship and thought that was a nice manifestation of the holiday season.
And it's true. Her outsider's perspective hit upon one of the better aspects of a time that can be far too commercial and stressful.
More so than any other holiday Christmas is a time to reconnect with old friends and relatives who might no longer play an important role in our day to day lives.
Christmas cards from distant relations or friends sometimes contain pictures of children we've never met. Through the years, this sequence of annual pictures chronicles the history of families we barely know. Soon the chubby toddlers give way to brace-faced adolescents and finally to broad-shouldered young men and attractive young ladies.
This reconnecting phenomena is also evident when the phone rings on Christmas morning and the voice is a relative from out of state who's wondering who's there, what time the meal is being served and what's on the menu.
The Christmas season is a time when old friends reunite for lunch or drinks to catch up on their lives and remember the days when their paths crossed more frequently.
The often-maligned Christmas letter is parodied and mimicked, but it serves an important function. When you cut through the cute jokes and the little bit of bragging, the writer is basically saying: We're all healthy and happy. The kids are growing like weeds. Hope your family is doing well.
For some people, this Christmas-time reconnection of friendships feels a little clumsy. Their lives are busy with kids, jobs and commitments and they're embarrassed they haven't kept in touch with their old best friend. What if that old pal feels slighted or hurt that they haven't been called?
One of author Stephen King's characters once said that friends go in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant. That sounds cold but there's a strong ring of truth to it. It's unrealistic to think that the nature of friendships won't change as our lives change. The fact that we can't devote as much time to old friends as we used to doesn't mean those people aren't important to us.
Our lives are constantly evolving and changing from the days of changing diapers and chauffeuring kids to that period when older parents need more help.
If Christmas existed for no other reason it would be worth inventing just to give old friends and relatives a reason to drop each other a line and keep those connections alive. Friendships and family relationships need some nurturing but they usually won't wither away without daily attention. When we share a family history with someone or are part of a close friendship a real bond is established even if circumstances or geography changes the nature of that connection.
So call up that old friend this month. Tis the season to reconnect.
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