Messages at Christmas

Men should come with instructions was the saying embroidered on a pile of Christmas throw cushions in a department store I visited recently. Nearby were other pillows, ones with snowy scenes of winter and bright Christmas colors that would make better decorations. Obviously the designer of the first pillow knew that Christmas is a time for sending messages, so rather than the traditional holiday pictures, this pillow held a broader purpose. Many of the expectations of the Christmas/Hanukkah season are about meaningful messages: hope, light, peace, love. These themes are renewed again and again. Holiday cards are selected for their words. Gifts are often symbols of deeper relationships. Many of the office parties end with the common send off of "Have a very Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." Sometimes, though, the messages aren't what we want to hear. They do not seem uplifting. They may even challenge the spirit of joy and goodwill that we seek at this season.