In the Connie Willis story “Miracle,” Lauren’s sister has accidentally summoned Chris, the Spirit of Christmas Present, from the Astral Plane. He appears in Lauren’s kitchen, where he plants a tree in her kitchen floor, exchanges her preprinted cards for biodegradable ones with environmentally-conscious sentiments, and transforms the magnificent new dress--with which she was hoping to wow Scott at the Christmas Eve party—into one made from feathers and dried leaves. She wishes he would just leave her alone. Chris would be happy to leave, but first she must tell him her heart’s desire, so he can give her the present her sister wished him to give her in the first place.
Lauren rushes out to the stores and buys another dress (one not nearly as nice as the one she originally purchased), and at work finds more memos on holiday activities from the Personnel Morale Special Committee. She’s missed a visit from Fred up in the Document department. He’s been researching on how to help her exorcise Chris from her apartment, and he left word to say that he’s gone to the company library to continue working on her behalf. She goes up to see him. Along the way, the dreamy Scott meets up with her and announces that he’s cancelled his date for this evening. Would she like to go out with him and help him buy all the presents for the office workers? Meanwhile, Evie is reading a book called Let’s Forget Christmas. Did Lauren know that the number of stress-related illnesses contracted during the holidays is seven times greater than during the rest of the year? Did she know that four-times as many people commit suicide during the holidays that at any other time? Does she know that six times as many people suffer from depression during the holidays than at any other time of the year?
Perhaps some better, more appropriate questions for Lauren to consider would be these. Why do you still live alone? Why are you pining after the dreamy Scott, who is never around when you need him, as opposed to dependable Fred, who always stands ready to assist you? Why don’t you greet the manifestation of Chris—proof of the miraculous in your ordinary life—with more enthusiasm? And most importantly, why can’t you tell him what your heart’s desire is?
While I would never embrace the slogan of the book her friend Evie is reading, clearly its writer is addressing some very real issues. The holidays should be celebrations of all that is joyous in our lives. Yet all too often they function as a microscope, magnifying any flaw or defect. Thus, the brokenness and the sense of loss that we do our best to ignore during the rest of the year loom large in our vision, impossible to ignore.
Too often, we have been beaten down so badly by life that the only way we feel we can cope with reality is by focusing upon the mundane tasks of existence. We forget our dreams, we cease to think about what we would like to accomplish, we content ourselves solely with getting by. Robbing ourselves of joy and any real satisfaction, we grow dependent upon others to provide these for us, and when they fail us, we grow frustrated, depressed, and even suicidal. As Christmas draws near, let us use the season to contemplate not only how we can best express the wishes of our hearts. Only by doing that can we look up again and discover our purpose in life. Our mission. Our destiny.
Once our hearts are bursting with joy, we can share our message of hope with those around us.
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis, is available from Bantam Books.
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