The miracle of Christmas from a horror writer’s perspective…
This time of year, I see a lot of signs and bumper stickers that declare we need to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” Even if you’re not a Christian, I’m sure you can agree that the birth of Christ is the true reason for the season. It’s just a matter of historical perspective. The secularization of the holiday has created a backlash, though it gets drowned out by frantic shopping, bright lights, and lying to children that elves on shelves and fat old men are watching their every move. We CAN put the Christ back in Christmas, if the Catholic church so desires. I’m going to propose a very unconventional way to go about it.
Faith seems to be in very short supply these days. It gets harder and harder to keep the faith as we are bombarded with more and more distractions. Our 24/7 news cycle is designed to only show us the worst of humanity and the unfairness of life. It’s not only depressing as hell, it also makes you question whether there can be a Creator God who would allow such things to happen to his (or her) children. Add to that an abundance of material and opinions on religious history and it gets to the point that you don’t know who or what to believe. So what do you need to pull your head from the orgy of Christmas excess to the true meaning of this time of year?
And like I said, faith is getting pretty hard to come by.
Even during the time that Jesus walked the earth (kinda like Kung Fu) and was performing miracles, there was a lack of faith. The Apostles and his disciples needed constant reminders of his divine origin. Remember good old Doubting Thomas?
From John 20:24-29 :
24 Now Thomas , one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas, who was alive when Jesus was healing the lame, turning water into wine, and bringing the dead back to life, still needed concrete proof. His faith wasn’t strong enough, even though JC was in his midst doing what JC did best. Thomas needed that extra bit of proof.
So why are we expected to have so much faith two-thousand years and endless atrocities later? It’s nice to be blessed, but it isn’t easy to attain, even now, during what is supposed to be one of the happiest and most holy times of the year.
People need proof. And short of the second coming (which, if you believe the prophecy, will not be all wine and roses), we need concrete evidence of divine forces working here on earth. You might say “we need miracles!” and run to your book of saints, pointing out the oodles of miracles performed in their names over the centuries. Or the stigmata of Padre Pio, who was with us all the way until 1968, stunning believers and non-believers alike. Tales of angelic intervention and miracle cures abound.
But it’s not enough to cut through the noise. Not for us. Not for this world we’ve shaped.
We feed off the negative. I know it’s hard to say, but it’s true. If we didn’t, our newscasts would be vastly different, Jerry Springer would have been on the air for 25 days, not years, and civil discord would be the norm, not the exception.
So, in light of what we are and what we need, I propose this:
Show us an honest to God exorcism.
We have endless ways to document and record the fantastical feats performed by the possessed. From speaking in strange languages in bizarre voices, to vomiting objects such as nails, insects and small animals (people have been known to throw up frogs and mice), levitation, and so much more, these are things that will frighten us into belief. Imagine the visuals and audio of an exorcism, presented to us not just through tacit approval of the Catholic church, but also independent sources (especially if we can get an atheist on board, which shouldn’t be hard to find in the media).
I was told by a monsignor that had performed several exorcisms that true evil does exist. We all know that. We see it, and want to see it, everyday. What we need proof of is that evil exists as an entity separate from man. We may not be able to see the good around us, but if you take the time to show us the bad, people will take notice. Film a miracle and I doubt it will make the news (if it does, it will have X-Files music playing in the background). Show the terrors of an exorcism in living color, and it will be the headline story.
All of this says more about us (and me), than it does about God (or whatever name you want to hang on the entity that made us…if you believe). But as any parent will tell you, we learn through fear. Parents instill a fear of putting your hand on a hot stove, leaping off the edge of the tub, talking to strangers, taking drugs, and hundreds of other things. That fear keeps us safe. If you want the most incredible Christmas in history (okay, the second most), frighten us. Put the fear of God and the Devil in us. Prove to us what awaits a shallow, secular life and we will sing praises, open our hearts to love, and spread joy at Christmas. We will believe because just like Thomas, we will have been given proof. Maybe we won’t be as blessed as those who never needed proof, but we’ll be on the right path.
Sure, this won’t work for everybody. Nothing can. People will claim the proof is fake, or a ploy to get fannies to fill church pews. There’s no such thing as a cure all. But the impact will be seismic. Is it sad we have to cater to our base nature to elevate our souls? Perhaps. Or maybe we just have to accept what we are and find a way to improve our lot in life (and the afterlife), no matter how much it makes us cringe.
Maybe we’re the little Whos down in Whoville that needed proof of evil in the form of that nasty Grinch to strip away the distractions and noise and show us that we better get our acts together. His heart may have grown three sizes that day, but what impact did his evil have on them?
Something to consider.
And speaking of the Grinch, I’ll leave you with Dr. Seuss’s parting words:
“Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.”
I’m sure a lot of you are thinking the same thing I am today – ‘We made it!’
The month of December seems both a marathon and a sprint, days and nights spent planning, shopping, arranging travel, sending out cards, decorating, more shopping and then just a tad more shopping. The stores and malls this year have been more crowded than ever, which for economists is a good sign. For those caught in those crowds, it was a nightmare.
Usually at this time of year, churches would have a little less pew space. Not so this year. I guess there were too many sales at Target and Walmart luring folks away. It’s funny, we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special and the very things Chuck was lamenting 50 years ago still hold true today, on a scale I’m sure he could never have imagined. (On a side note, I met the voice of Charlie Brown a couple of months ago. Funny guy. He was just sentenced to prison a week ago)
Today, with all of the Christmas cookies baked and nothing to do but wait for the big man to come down our imaginary chimney, I have time to reflect on all of the Christmases I’ve experienced – the good and the sad.
When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was spent at my grandparent’s house. I loved Christmas Eve there. For me, it was even better than Christmas. They had a small ceramic Christmas tree and little village on Grandpa’s work desk. He had the 8 track player softly playing Christmas songs. We opened presents in the living room, ate and then my sister and I would rush into the TV room to watch the first Christmas cartoon ever made, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. My aunts and uncles would come over and for one night, the family was aligned in perfection. Everyone but my mother and sister is gone now. It’s easy to get maudlin, but I choose to remember the good times we all had and to be grateful for them.
I remember Christmas Eve’s in the 90s (and just over the past 2 years again) when we weren’t sure my wife would be with us because she was so sick. Christmas is her holiday. I swear she was a North Pole elf in another life. The best present I received each of those Christmases was my wife, smiling by the tree.
Seventeen years ago we spent our first Christmas with someone we were told we would never have – our daughter. She was so tiny, the little stuffed Santa we all took pictures of her sitting next to was almost bigger than her. I think that day was the happiest I’ve ever seen my family.
Now my girls are teens and, believe it or not, just plain awesome. They’re smart and witty and sarcastic, just like dear old dad. This Christmas Eve, the 4 of us will hunker together. I’m taking them in the car to tour the Christmas lights. Then we’ll come home, make dinner and watch Christmas specials until it’s time to head off to bed. Christmas day will be spent with family, me the pack mule carting presents and food from one house to the next. There will be much merriment, and I’m sure some heated words about whatever topic sets off our booze addled brains. If you can’t yell at family about things that concern no one, what’s the point?
We once played bocce in the snow after dinner, in the dark. That was a blast. It’s going to rain this year, so it’ll be the guys chomping on stogies under and umbrella, the kids running around in the mud. The key is, we’ll all be together.
Because that’s what Christmas is really about. Family. And love.
Here’s wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
It’s that time of the year again when I’m compelled to post the opening scene from the movie, Love, Actually – one of the very few Christmas movies for adults. My wife and I watch it every year beside our brilliantly lit Christmas tree. The opening sequence wraps up not only the spirit of the holiday, but the heart of the human condition, no matter what time of year, quite perfectly. As a writer, I’ve always been envious of these few simple yet achingly elegant lines of prose.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you all health, love and happiness.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.
By nature, I’m not a big Christmas guy, but I’ve learned to embrace the season by watching it through the eyes of my family. So, while I’m surrounded by Christmas lights, dazzling garland, Christmas specials on TV and 24 hour Christmas music on not 1, but 2 stations in New York (pray for the DJs), I have to find my subversion in books.
I first read Santa Steps Out about 10 years ago and just found it in my mother’s attic while cleaning this weekend. If, as a horror fan, you read one holiday book this season (and I hope to God it’s not a Debbie Macomber or Mary Higgins Clark sapfest), this is it. To say Santa Steps Out is sick, twisted and demented is an understatement. It’s also hysterical. Read it and you’ll never look at Santa, or that sexy Tooth Fairy, the same way again.
And because the holiday season is upon us like a pandemic, I’d like to give away ebooks of Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity and Swamp Monster Massacre. I’ll give one of each to 3 lucky winners. All you have to do is drop a comment here, tweet this out or comment on my FB fan page.
Ho ho oh where is my spiked egg nog?
It’s been a very strange week here in NY & CT where I live and work. We’re all trying to get in the holiday spirit, but the unthinkable events at Sandy Hook Elementary are never far from our thoughts. I had to write a blog of my publisher’s website on Monday. Hardest thing I ever had to write. You can read it here.
I NEED to be Santa today, in a small way, to help get me in the mood. So, I picked the winners from my previous Christmas post. Here are the winners and the booty you each get. Please email your address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can send everything out.
And the winners are:
- Jason Darrick : signed copy of Evil Eternal
- Kimmie : signed copy of Forest of Shadows
- Marinda Hatcher-Grindstaff : Swamp Monster Massacre T Shirt
- Erin (from Hook of a Book) : signed copy of Forest of Shadows
- Joe Pinto : signed copy of Evil Eternal
- Jennifer Mathis : e-copy of Swamp Monster Massacre
- Robert Stava : e-copy of Swamp Montser Massacre
- Paul Dail : e-copy of Swamp Monster Massacre
Now, if any of you who won signed books prefers e-books, let me know and I can easily accomodate. I never know what folks prefer.
Merry Christmas to all of you and a happy, healthy and wealthy New Year! And please spread the Christmas love by sharing the Monster Men Christmas episode with everyone you meet. 🙂
Ho, Ho Aaarrrrgggghh! ‘Tis the season of twinkling lights, the scent of pine, spiked egg nogg and paper cuts from wrapping presents. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy the Christmas season and make it a point to tell everyone ‘Merry Christmas’ as opposed to a non-committal, limp-wristed ‘Happy Holidays’. After I write this post, I’ll be on my way to putting up the lights around the house and ddoing a little shopping for the family.
Since I’ll be a very busy little beaver this month, I figured I’d post something that will remain relevant for the entire holiday season AND give away a bunch of stuff that you can put under the tree. Stick with me as I bounce around like a reindeer after 10 shots of tequila.
First, The Monster Men just put together our very first Christmas episode. We give our top 10 list of the baddest villains in Christmas special history. See how it matches up against yours!
In my house, we have a tradition of watching at least 1 Christmas special/movie a night from December 1st until Christmas Eve. Needless to say, we own a ton of Christmas DVDs and video tapes. I’m sure you all watch the standards like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Here’s a cartoon you may not have even heard of but should definitely become part of your viewing rotation.
My all time favorite Christmas cartoon is A Wish for Wings that Work, starring Opus and Bill the Cat (of Bloom County fame – the second best comic strip of all time, next to Calvin and Hobbes). All poor Opus wants for Christmas is the ability to fly. But his smelly sidekick Bill, he of the tater tot brains, accidently thwarts him at every turn. This is one the parents will love even more than the kids.
Now, on the MUCH more adult side, thanks to my Monster Brother, Jack, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia : A Very Sunny Christmas has not only scarred me, but become an instant classic in my twisted home. If you’ve ever wanted to see Danny Devito naked or watch a man chew a mall Santa’s throat out while asking him he he effed his mom, this is a can’t miss!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, even though I write horror for a living, I do have a romantic side (or else I’d be a very lonely horror writer). For my money, hands down, the best Christmas movie ever made is Love Actually. Yes, it’s a movie about several interconnected love stories, but isn’t that what Christmas is realy all about? If you doubt the greatness of this movie, read the opening lines, then watch it.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.
Now, on to the presents! I want to thank all of you for sticking with me over the past year by giving you some gifts. All you need to do is drop in a comment (and hopefully share this on Twitter, FB, etc). I’ll be giving away the following:
- A Swamp Monster Massacre T shirt!
- 2 signed copies & 1 digital copy of Forest of Shadows
- 2 signed copies & 1 digital copy of Evil Eternal
- 2 digital copies of Swamp Monster Massacre
- Loads of custom bookmarks
I’ll pick random winners on December 17th and send them out so you have them in time for Christmas.
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!