We stood on the shore alone that one December morning long ago, the rest of the family back at the cottage, deep in holiday slumber. My little boy danced in the shallows, kicking at the frothy surf, then bent to examine more closely a multicolored sea shell. A gentle wave splashed in his face and he ran his tongue along his lower lip, sampling the taste of an ancient ocean.
"Daddy, why is the ocean salty?", my little boy asked.
I pondered his question, one of ten thousand he would ask of me during our years together. I waltzed it around in my mind, then began to tell a story unknown even to me until that very moment.
"Son, the ocean is salty because every Christmas season millions of people cry a million tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of loneliness, tears for those who shared Christmases past and are no longer with you".
"Why so many tears at Christmas?" my little boy asked.
"Because son, December is a time when darkness falls heavily over the earth and the quietude of of soft gray skies and winter breezes brush away the blare of car horns and train whistles and church bells bid the world be silent for a spell. It is in this gentle silence that we begin to recall the words of an ancient carpenter who preached of love and forgiveness". "And just as we treasure the precious light from these brief wintry days, the world basked in His light for all too brief a time."
Blinking into the sun just coming over the mountains, my boy asked "Do they cry because they miss him?"
"Many do", I said. "But it is much more than that. You see, somehow, without it even being said, folks this time of year assume some form of their own personal redemption." "Their hearts soften, they become more attuned to the feelings of others, they begin to want to be better versions of themselves."
"So they cry for the homeless and the destitute, they cry for the hundred thousand or so who will die of starvation on this day, they cry for those alone in a season that celebrates family and friendship".
"And they cry tears of joy when the wealth of family enlivens the hearth and lightens the heart, they cry at the generosity and kindness in the presentation of a cherished gift, they cry at the mewing of a Christmas kitten or the glad-soundings of a little puppy, a Christmas ribbon about his neck."
My little boy smiled at that, then asked "so what happens to all those tears, Daddy?"
"Son, some of them wash away the bitterness of an angry heart, some of them enrich the seeds of new buds that will bloom and thrive in the warmth of a spring sun, and their souls will blossom and turn outward and never again will they dwell in the darkness."
"So", my little boy pondered, "that's a lot of tears from millions of people!"
"Yes, son". "And they flow into streams and then into rivers, where they wash away the sadness and make everything clean again, before they at last flow into the ocean where God has chosen to accept them".
At that, my little boy turned and looked out upon the vast ocean, and single tear fell from his eye.
As I watched the tear fall into the roiling surf, I dropped to my knees and hugged my little boy…and I said to him "someone once said to another long ago, go find that tear in the vastness of God's ocean…and when you do, that will be the day that I'll stop loving you".
Merry Christmas to my dear friends and family. May you only know tears of joy in this holiest of seasons.