Every Christmas I’m reminded how broad and truly diverse the holiday is. In a masterful, unconscious, truly genius kind of way, Christmas has evolved to combine piety with revelry; and pulls together both greed and generosity. I encourage you to revel in all of this. Christmas, as we get it in the modern world, is the ultimate mash-up of simple white lights mixed with colorful bulbs contrasting with the dark of night.
I love that Christmas is a mark in history built upon the pre-history of the solstice, and better than any lecture on the history of the holiday ever could, unites Pagan and Christian myths. Pretty cool right? Moreover, Christmas comes about right when we need a holiday to inspire us to head into the heart of winter.
I grew up what I call “suburban open-minded protestant Christian,” but for a moment in my late teens, got a little persnickety about Christmas being a religious holiday. I have long let that feeling go. As I have come to appreciate the complexity of life, and realize that I have come to appreciate with a chuckle, no real beef, that our most generous season is, in large part, prompted by the pragmatic deadline of tax deductions.
The truth is Christmas is the perfect example of how life does not come to us in zealous little boxes. We are not merely a parent or a child, most of us are both at once. For that reason, and because we are all at once sentimental and materialistic, compassionate and self-interested, Christmas is a good metaphor for how to let divergent things coexist.
Maybe I am making too big a deal about this. That’s possible. All I know is that I’m good that Santa shares some air time with Scrooge, and we have found a pretty peaceful way to let Hanukkah and Christmas blur together. Minus the carbon emissions, it is cool that all races and religions, pretty equally, drive around and enjoy the pretty lights people put up.
I’m a big Jesus fan, the semi-historical guy more than the savior part, but I like that in our modern world I am allowed, as a pastor, to enjoy a holiday party and mistletoe as much as the next person. Christmas helps us mature and not be so jealous about who we think we are.
I love that families in our disconnected world make an effort to be together at this time of year, whether going to midnight mass or watching the (now awkwardly antiquated) animated Rudolph and Charlie Brown specials. Despite the bad press, gifts are a cool part of Christmas. I love that Christmas is as much about the wonder we see in kids’ eyes who believe in Santa as it is about a sweet version of Silent Night. I want my two nieces, and every other kid in the world to get everything they want for Christmas.
Essentially, I guess I want all parts of Christmas to get their share and to get along, and mostly minus some loudmouth fundamentalists who are jealous that they don’t define reality anymore, it does.
That all said, I do hope, if not pray, that we remember that the baby we talk about on Christmas is honored because he was such a damn impressive example of what it is to be an adult. I do wish that Jesus remains a part of the holiday, and is arguably the most unforgettable figure of all time not because he was mythically born from a virgin, but because of the way we get him was a person who blended compassion with courage, and wisdom with sacrifice.
When so few people go to church that the average person learns about what prompted Christmas Eve from a special on A&E, I invite you to remember that man that grew up out of the baby we ooh and ahh over during this holiday is remembered because he was ahead of his time in calling for society to transform itself into a kingdom of love and justice.
Let’s not lose that. Christmas offers so much to celebrate, ponder, and do.
Let’s save what is becoming its own mustard seed size part of Christmas of that Jesus who calls for transformation, and a world of peace.
I’m not a purist. I didn’t even intend for this to be about Jesus. I understand and have a little problem that Jesus is now part of the capitalist marketing, indulgent, holiday reverie that has stolen as freely from the Pagan traditions, etc. And that Jesus became a God because he created in his followers a certain spirit of acquiescence to power.
Jesus is enmeshed and lost to the fanfare. It’s true, but when the churches are fully empty…
I pray we always remember that Jesus, the guy who seemed to himself love a good party and cute kids, doesn’t have to be God’s son to be worth honoring.
So, shop, eat, drink, and be merry. The holiday is about all that, but while we as a church focus on being open, curious, and re-engaged in re-embracing our place on a spinning earth that led our ancestors to invent solstice rituals let’s not forget that the cute baby born this night grew up to be at least one tool in us remembering that humanity is healed when we put down the guns, share the wealth, turn the other cheek, behave ourselves, rebel against what is wrong.
Let’s try to not forget.
Now if you would, please pour me some eggnog, while I try not to fall while putting a star on the tree.