One week 'til Christmas Day.
If you've read my blog for more than a year, you've surely picked up on my frustrations over the holiday season. I get so aggravated at the commercialism . . . but I also get aggravated at the secular anti-commercialism, especially when it is spouted by religious people and sources. If you're a believer, Christmas is NOT about "family", "giving", "the kids", or any of that stuff. Christmas is about a specific historical and spiritual event -- an event of profound significance that is worthy of deep and joyous worship on our part.
But the way we celebrate Christmas in America these days makes it almost impossible, it seems, to remember that event in any meaningful way. Try as we might, our efforts to "put Christ back in Christmas" really are so shallow. We have special programs at church . . . but in the end, those are usually just about putting on a show (often "for the kids"), eating holiday food, fellowship (the churchy word for socializing), and perhaps a single poignant moment seeing the manger scene portrayed once again -- then back to more food and fellowship.
We listen to the traditional Christmas carols on the Christmas music station in the car . . . and get a momentary emotional rush from the power of the music and the memories it invokes (rarely, if we're honest, to the ideas behind the words), and then immediately turn around and start bouncing to "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree."
We maybe read a brief "Advent devotional" each morning during December . . . another thing on the full to-do list for the month.
We send Christmas cards and letters and make sure they have a scripture reference in them and make mention of Jesus somewhere . . . but we're really just doing this to keep in touch with folks.
On the big day, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and say a quick prayer . . . just touching base with the heavenlies before the orgy of gift-opening.
Putting Christ in Christmas kind of feels like putting bunko in the neighborhood bunko night: it relieves our conscience by giving us a legitimate excuse to put time and energy into doing all the things we REALLY want to do.
I have a dream of a Christmas one year where there are no presents, no decorations, no Christmas specials on TV, no fattening Christmas goodies -- where I spend the Advent season with me and God (and occasionally with the family of believers corporately) worshipping and studying and praying and meditating on the amazing fact that the God of the universe chose to take on human flesh and become one of us. And to wake up on Christmas morning genuinely overwhelmed with the joy and awe that such a truth should inspire in humanity.
Because that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.