I love how old movies portray New York City at Christmastime. Snow drifts gently to the ground. Carols are sung on street corners. Decorations light up the streets. And the tree at Rockefeller Center seems to spread it's magic throughout the city, creating a scene straight out of the carol Silver Bells.
“Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile.” I love how old movies portray New York City at Christmastime.
But I grew up in New York. And the city is nothing like that at Christmastime. The tree does light up Rockefeller Center and decorations line the streets. If you're lucky you'll get a nice snowfall. But what gives the city in those old films the spirit of Christmas is the people. The “children laughing” and the “smile after smile.” Ralph Kramden described it best in the Christmas episode of The Honeymooners, “everyone's hustling someplace. But they don't hustle around Christmastime like they usually do. You know they're a little more friendlier … they bump into you, they laugh and they say, 'Pardon me. Merry Christmas.'” It's a lovely idea but in reality New York is New York. You can put up the decorations, you can have a pretty snowfall, you can even put carolers on the streets. But everyone's still hustling just like they always hustle. And don't count on getting any Merry Christmases now – we're far too “tolerant” for that.
So I spend my Christmases at home with people who I can count on to be merry. And I look forward to the end of January when I will go to another city that I can count on to be filled with the Christmas spirit.
That city is Washington D.C. It's not the city itself that creates the Christmas feeling. I've been living in the area for a couple months now and I think it's safe to say that for 364 days of the year it's more or less the same as New York. But in the second to last week of January it is slowly imbued with a Christmas-like cheer, which typically reaches a crescendo on January 22.
This date is home to the annual March for Life, a rally comprising hundreds of thousands of people gathered to protest the killing of unborn children. It's a grave cause that brings us to Washington and so one might reasonably expect the gathering to be grave. But we have so many reasons for joy. We see that we are not alone. All year, on our own, we fight for life in the world – a cold, hard world which beats us down. But on this day we see that we are supported by hundreds of thousands of others, that we are never alone in this fight. And with each passing year we know that the institution of abortion is being chipped away until one day it will crumble before our eyes, as every other form of oppression, from Auschwitz to the Berlin Wall, has crumbled before it.
But the real source of our joy is that we are celebrating life! And this is what gives the March for Life that Christmas-in-New York feeling. Because what is Christmas but the celebration of life? It is the celebration of the birth of a child. It is the celebration of a woman in a difficult, unplanned pregnancy choosing life. And it is the celebration of the source of life coming into the world to restore life to fallen humanity.
At the March for Life we celebrate the birth of every child. We celebrate the courage of every woman who has chosen and will choose life. We celebrate the conversion and healing of every woman who stands at the front of the March proclaiming “I regret my abortion.” And at the heart of it all we simply celebrate the mind-boggling gift that is life itself.
There is often snow at the March for Life. In place of Christmas carols we have everything from hymns to chants. Rather than Christmas decorations we bring signs and banners. And most importantly there are “children laughing,” and “smile after smile.” The entire March is a matter of hustling and you can't avoid bumping people. But there's always a smile, a laugh, a “pardon me,” a “God bless you.”
For days leading up to the March and days after you'll be bumping into pro-life groups on the metro and throughout the city. The locals probably hate it because we clog up the trains. But you're always sure of a smile and a little extra courtesy. Those pro-lifers, they're “a little more friendlier.”
On one day each year we descend on D.C. We come to that city bearing the Christmas spirit, which is the love of Christ. For, “in Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”