REVerberations – December 2013
OK, so I have a real problem with Christmas. Not as a concept. But as a cultural feat we attempt to pull off in 24 hours in the dead of winter. So much of the world around us starts building just after mid-year toward what we are to believe is the peak of the season,
December 25. We are compelled to orient our lives toward buying just the right presents that we hide away until just the right time. We plan great acts of benevolence and generosity that we hold off until they fall in line with the spirit that we cram into one season. We anticipate that great gifts will be forwarded our way as the season draws to its climax. We host and attend meals and events that we hope will accentuate the specialness of the holiday, lifting our spirits well into the frozen months to come when we hope the memories are enough to warm us until the sun returns. I guess the trending craze is to replicate Roller Derby in the department store showroom, intent on wresting that cherished item from the hands of other determined shoppers before we even finish giving thanks for what we already have. In short, it is easy to use Christmas as an excuse to buy too much, eat too much, worry too much, expect too much. I wonder how any one day could ever bear the enormous weight of expectation with which we burden it.
And then comes December 26, the morning after. We wake up surrounded by the ravages of the day before, wrapping paper still strewn around us, presents littering the environment, refrigerator bulging with leftovers that we may or may not ever eat, a tree in the middle of our living room just waiting to drop needles that we will discover mid- year as a reminder of the cycle beginning all over again.
There is a tremendous amount of cultural and commercial energy invested in making us believe that Christmas should not be like any other day. It is much harder to live up to the challenge of making every other day like we think Christmas should be, a precious time for appreciating family and friends, valuing time to be with loved ones, being grateful for
blessings, giving special gifts, reaching out to those who don’t have in July the same way they don’t have in December.
As far as I know, birthdays are supposed to reflect something of the one for whom the celebration is occurring. So we might ask ourselves what Jesus liked, who he was, who he is, what seems important to him. If we start with the assumption that very little of what we already do has anything to do with any of that, we might challenge ourselves to imagine a celebration Jesus might just appreciate. We might internalize so much about his meaning in our lives that we take on more and more and more of his characteristics until we can’t help but feel his presence in every season and in every day. We might invest as much energy in making sure people who work in the stores in which we shop can afford to buy the things they sell. We might go that extra mile to notice and help people we so casually let ourselves take for granted 364 days of the year. We might develop and nurture a practice of setting aside time each day to thank God for coming into the world and into our lives. What else might we do?
I am sorry to be a Christmas curmudgeon. But I guess I am content with the label. There is so much potential in this story that gives new birth to our faith all the year through. That said, I do sincerely wish you a very Merry Christmas, every single day!