You don't really have to be in the mood for the Fourth of July. No one ever talks about having that Memorial Day spirit. Even Thanksgiving can be distilled, without too much disrespect. But Christmas is something different. Feeling is the point of it, somewhere under all that shopping. To think of Scrooge is to think of his conversion, the cartwheeling of his emotions after his long night of the soul. But the more interesting part of the story is his dogged resistance to feeling the way everyone thinks he's supposed to feel - about death, about charity, about prize turkeys hanging at the poulterer'
Most of us know how we want to feel this time of year, whatever holiday we are celebrating. We want to feel safe, loving and well loved, well fed, openhanded, and able to be moved by the powerful but very humble stories that gather in this season. We would like to feel that there is a kind of innocence, not in our hearts, since our hearts are such complicated places, but in the very gestures and rituals of late December. We would like to feel that we are returning to something unchanged, some still spot in a spinning world. Whether you believe with an absolute literalism or with a more analogic faith, whether you believe at all, whether you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim or merely human, the word we would like to feel most profoundly now is Peace.
It's easy enough to be cynical about the things we would like to feel here at the dark end of the year, to dismiss them out of hand as if they were only the battery-powered, sugar-coated, marzipan dreams of a child's holiday. Life is too tough, too embattled for such sentimentality. That is Scrooge's point exactly: no use pretending the world isn't exactly the way it is. One of the reasons we love to hear the story of an old crank like Scrooge is that he seems to embody this cracked old world, made whole in one night by regret and repentance.
One night will not do it, nor will one day. Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger. We come into this season knowing how we want it to make us feel, and we are usually disappointed because humans never cease to be human. But we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will.