In The Road, a post-catastrophic novel about the end of days, author Cormac McCarthy portrays a man and his young son traveling south to find food, moderate temperatures, and a means to survive the desiccation of the planet. Along the way, there are constant threats of being captured by cannibals, succumbing to the earth's instability, illness, starvation, and hopelessness. As one reads this terrifying novel, the eventual question in the back of one's mind is why? Many people, including the man's wife, have committed suicide because there is nothing left on the planet to survive for. Yet this stalwart man continues to offer his child hope as they travel: "we are the good guys, we carry the fire."
There is a stark message in such words. There are two types of survival at stake: physical survival and survival of the spirit. Those who have turned into cold, heartless cannibals have surrendered to the survival of the flesh alone - they care nothing for the survival of character, goodness, or sanctity. What is this fire that the man and his boy must carry along this seemingly fruitless journey? It could be argued that the survival of the soul is the fire within, that through the strength which this fire brings, one lives each horrifying day to the fullest by being a "good guy." It is a powerful message for everyday life.
If we acknowledge the message of the gospels we understand that there are dangers to the soul each moment as we travel through ordinary life. There are persistent temptations to do what is easy, to succumb to our momentary desires, and to disregard what is right for what we need. In his recent blog entitled "Incarnation: The Heart of the Catholic Thing," Father Robert Barron of Word on Fire writes, "God condescended to enter flesh so that our flesh might partake of the divine life, that we might participate in the love that holds the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in communion. And this is why Christianity is the greatest humanism that has ever appeared, indeed that could ever appear. No philosophical or political or religious program in history - neither Greek or Renaissance or Marxist humanism - has ever made a claim about human destiny as extravagant as Christianity's. We are called, not simply to moral perfection or artistic self-expression, or economic liberation, but rather to what the eastern fathers called theiosis, transformation into God" (http://wordonfire.org).
We survive another day on this temptation-ridden planet so that we can achieve divinity and share in God's eternal life. Christmas is a reminder of this goal, but Christmas in modern times presents its own challenges to spiritual survival. Can we get through the hustle and bustle of the holidays with our focus on God intact? Can we avoid the temptation to immerse ourselves in consumerism and frivolity and opt for the serenity of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? How do we survive the cold, heartless emptiness of secularism during this holy time of year? How do we continue to be the "good guys" who carry the fire of salvation within us as we face the instability of moral decay and anti-theism?
Surviving Christmas is a matter of refocusing on the actual meaning of Christmas: "For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Maintain the fire and spirit of love within, hold on to the character of LOVE and God's goodness, love one another as Christ - as GOD - loved us, and we shall not perish. We have a choice; we do not have to become like those who are lost and surviving life, we can become like Christ and love our way through all the temptations and perils of this world. Christmas = Love.