You almost escaped it, or at least you thought you did. Each year it seems, I have something less the enlightening or pleasant to say about the most wonderful time of the year; it seemed as if you would avoid it this year.
Well, just as Santa Claus has never missed house; so have I never missed an opportunity for a meditation on what is one of the most ridiculous celebrations in the history of mankind:
Now, in the past I have been completely anti-Christmas, not because I do not like the good things that come out of the holiday; but rather I hate all of the hypocrisy, consumerism, and drama that plays out during the said holiday. It is like people either become repentant scrooges or more entrenched grinches. It is fascinating to see how many people who do not care about the poor and marginalized any other time of year act like they would rather do nothing else for the rest of their lives. It is equally exasperating to see “Keep-Christ-in-Christmas” yard-sign “church-goers” become enraged at the UPS guy because his need to be off on Christmas “ruined” their Christmas because they waited too late to make sure their new stuff got there on time. The holiday season truly lives up to the Dickens dictum, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Now, I have regained a lot of my love for the Advent season; mostly because I have stopped watching Fox News and minding sermons about the ever-present “War on Christmas.” I believe that Christmas truly represents hope, but more in a distant Tolkien sense than an over-the-top Thomas Kinkade painting with way too much light. Advent observes both the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; as long as Jesus is alive, there is hope. That is something worth celebrating.
Still, I cannot help but point to the irony of all of us worried Christians battling to keep our manger scenes and “Merry Christmas” greetings in the public square. I am still perplexed and mystified at our inability to see what major asses (in the KJV sense) we are making of ourselves. Keep Christ in Christmas? How about we do that first? I am sorry, but working in retail over the Christmas season on the front lines has shown me how little we Christians understand the meaning we say we give the season. I encountered more anger, impatience, ungratefulness, and selfishness in my Christian retail environment, than I encountered going to any other business this season. I feel even worse for Chick-Fil-A employees who were likely cursed at, demeaned, and dehumanized simply because they work for Christian business and they have to take it. Even in the Christian business world, where the Scripture is supposed to be the supreme authority, the customer is still always right (this idea, I believe is wrong…but that’s another blog).
If we think we are spreading the message of our baptized holiday by shoving our symbols and meanings down our pagan culture’s throat; no wonder they do not take too much heed to our message. How do we celebrate the holiday any differently?
And that is where I want us to pause and really think; how do we celebrate Christmas differently?
Do we celebrate Christmas differently?
(Seriously pause for a few minutes and do some introspection…extroverts this may be incredibly difficult for you but hang in there)
I have to admit that the way that I celebrate the holiday that is supposed to be special and sacred to me is not very different than the pseudo-Christian or pagan neighbors around me. This is both an enlightening and disheartening revelation about myself. Even though there are things that I don’t do that separates me from those who do not share my hope, there is very little that I do that is different. To be quite honest, I was one of the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Americans who made sure someone was working on Christmas because I just had to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which was, I admit, fantastic…justification…). What does that say about what I think about the fulfilled meaning that we have given to the pagan festival of Christmas? Do I even give it a different meaning? Even though it is a rather ridiculous episode of Seinfeld, maybe Frank Costanza (and Larry David) had the right idea with coming up with a new way to celebrate the same events; perhaps Christian Christmas needs to become something like Festivus?
I am really drawn to the liturgical celebration of Advent, the reason being that it gives more ceremony and contemplation to a season, that in the Baptist world where I came from, has traditionally been full of really crammed in parties and really loud, obnoxious Christmas musicals and cantatas. Still, I am not sure that the celebration of Christmas becomes any different with a new set of liturgical rituals. I wonder if maybe we should be out and about on Christmas; I have seen various examples of this. Some folks have decided to go out and serve on Christmas; there are so many people in shelters, nursing homes, and hospitals who need love, warmth, and hope around Christmas time. I would argue that these individuals need to grasp on to hope more than any of us comfortable, middle class peeps with no problems! Still, others have totally dispensed with gift-giving, and perhaps we need to reconsider our own stance on it as well. In of itself, there is nothing wrong with gift giving; when the symbol is fully baptized and understood, it can be an excellent marker and push to Christ. However, I am not sure that the symbol is understood, and we may be doing more harm to the Gospel and our meaning of Christmas by hanging on to that tradition…it is something to at least consider. My wife and I have decided to do a “Year of Jubilee” every five years where all of our Christmas money and collection will go toward directly blessing someone else. I am excited about this; I do not want it to be just about going out to give presents or money…I want to see real opportunities to share Christ.
I want how my family celebrates Christmas to be different from our hopeless, stuff-obsessed world.
By doing this, I want to help change some other things. I want to call Christians to lay down their cultural arms and surrender the “War on Christmas.” What we have been fighting for is putting a Jesus stamp on a secular celebration; they don’t want that, and neither should we. I also want to start shaping an attitude of hope and gratitude in the larger Christian community; if we do not get a hold of consumerism’s idolatrous hold on the American church it will ruin us. We need to be a people of generosity, stewardship, and sacrifice; we need to give of ourselves in all things so that others may possess Christ in all things. We need to be a people willing to forsake our Christmas traditions if our Christmas traditions are not leading people to Christ. We especially need to stop treating people in fast food, retail, and other service industries as our slaves, not worth our respect or pity. Christ will not hold us guiltless for how we treat these individuals.
If UPS or Fed Ex not delivering your presents on Christmas can “ruin” your Christmas as a follower of Christ; you need to rediscover Christ anew.
And you need to apologize to the UPS/Fed Ex driver you tried to get in trouble.
And the ones you yelled and cussed out on the phone because your packages did not arrive.
And the ones in corporate you wrote to decrying their business practices and how you would see their company burn in the pits of nine hells.
That’s a start.
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas, and a wonderfully blessed New Year.
Will (and Candice if she desires to sign this blog)
P.S. (This is Candice.) For the record, I will support Will’s blog because I agree with its overall theme. I reject some of the statements, especially the ones that allude to Will’s past and present “masked/unmasked hatred” of shiny decorations, carols, cantatas, Christmas plays, and nativity scenes. I also reject any other Scroogish/Grinchish type character traits that bubble to the surface. I will vouch however, that Will’s heart grew a couple of sizes this year. He even gave the tree back to Cindy Lou Who. In all seriousness though, if your Christmas traditions cause you to act in a manner unworthy of the Gospel, it’s time to re-evaluate them. Oh and by the way, I think Santa Claus is a believer.