Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Reason for the Season

This is that time of year when I find signs on lawns, bumper stickers, and even a banner/billboard or two reminding me, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." I know the sentiment behind it but, well, do we really want to blame Jesus for what has become "Christmas?" I think it a shame that Jesus gets stuck with Santa, consumer excesses, binge eating and drinking, a focus on material things, etc. Jesus is hardly the reason for that part of the season.

Maybe it is our guilt for taking the season away from Jesus that makes us come up with trite little slogans to help us recall that underneath all the layers is the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. I would suggest that Jesus is not under all these layers but that another holy day stands side beside the holiday conscripted by the world. When mangers and menorahs, Christmas trees and stars, carols and cards are deemed to be marks of the holiday and not marks of the Holy Day, then Jesus is no longer the reason for this season. The Jesus season lives along side but distinct from the one all too familiar to us.

I would suggest that we would best be served by trying to keep them distinct and not merging them or seeing what is as layers added on to what began. They are as different as night and day. I am no Scrooge. I do not disdain the public displays of religious symbols stripped of their religious character. I do not cringe when the great carols of Christendom are played as blue light specials call us to purchase something. I don't advocate murdering Santa so that Jesus can have center stage. I suggest that we Christians distinguish the Christmass from the Christmas it has become.

The awesome mystery of the Word made flesh can hardly be threatened by a fat old beneficent man in a red suit. Come, now; is Jesus so weak as to be muscled out of His own holy day? What we had hoped Christmass to be has certainly been carjacked by those who saw a different purpose and goal for this holiday. But instead of fighting it, we might be better served by promoting the Holy Day that lives along side of but is distinct from what passes as the remembrance of Jesus' birth.

We do not need to bake Jesus a birthday cake or give Him a moment of silence before we tear into the packages so carefully wrapped and then layered under the tree. We do not need a false piety born of guilt over what we have made of His day. We don't need to blame Jesus as the reason for this season.

The Church needs to focus on the message -- in the beginning was the Word... and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us... full of grace and truth... and all who receive Him receive the right to become the children of the Most High God... Lets spend our time on the Holy Day that lives side beside the holiday -- distinguishing and separating the two without become the voices of bah humbug or the purveyors of a shallow religious truth that somehow ends up being a call to "why can't we all just get along (good will)?" Let us focus on the reasons for His coming, fear, sin, death, loneliness, hopelessness, broken hearts and broken lives... and then the people will know who Jesus is. He is the One who gives to us what Santa cannot and never, what this world cannot promise or provide, what our hearts and minds hope for and dream of... Life no longer defined by our failures or our failings... Life no longer lived under death's long, dark shadow... Life no longer marked by only our wounds and our fears...

So I, for one, say, let Santa and Wal-Mart have this season. Don't blame Jesus for it and don't try to dig through it to find Jesus. He won't be there. He will be where He has promised to be... in the Word that accomplishes its promise... in the water the cleanses, kills and gives new birth... in the fellowship of those whom He gives a place at His table... in the bread which is His body and the wine which is His blood... these places where His Name is and where He is just as He pledged... Lo, I am with you always... Let this belong to Jesus and we have nothing to fear from reindeer or jolly old fat men in red suits... No sireee.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This is what I tell people, especially during Advent (when I am the mean pastor who won't sing Christmas carols yet) -- it's not that I don't like all the trappings of Christmas (indeed, I keep my tree up year round, I like the ornaments). . . it's that I love the religious seasons of Advent and of Christmas and of Epiphany, and here in the Church, that's what we will have.

Ariel said...

I think it's sorta darkly ironic how the mass consumerist culture that our country has become has ruined Christmas for Christians much more than any "War on Christmas". Toss the political corectness hot potato around as much as you want--but no one wants to admit that the holidays have become nothing more than buy all that you can, eat all that you can, and mindlessly celebrate all that you can.

I was watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation the other night, and it struck me--that's what Clark Griswold's character REPRESENTS in the movie--a meaningless outward display of generousity and big-heartedness, for no other reason than live up to the same external model of a "good father" and "good family man" that our popular culture portrays, and that artificial people like Clark try so badly to fufill during Christmastime. I guess that movie kind of shows the kind of ridiculous spectacle that Christmas has become in our culture, and I want no part of it. Ironically, I think that Christmas in our culture has probably become the LEAST Christian time of the year.

Janis Williams said...

Christmas is NOT a random act of kindness by God. We made it into that years ago in this country.

I've forgotten where I heard or read it, but we Christians should indeed let the world have it's own holiday, and we should be the ones with the untrite slogan: "Keep the MASS in Christmas."