It hits you when you’re not looking for it. It’s a song or a commercial. A child screaming for a toy—well that last ones kinda blows it. But most of the time there’s something that clues you in. Sometimes you’re just sitting in a crowded CiCi’s Pizza somewhere in the Midwest watching other peoples children run wild when God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen begins to play and takes the edge off the din for just a moment, just long enough to get your attention. Yeah, Christmas has, in fact, arrived. Neither joyful nor comforted we face the holiday season with a collective groan. This is the Season for which Jesus is the reason and yet it is has been turned into the most uncomfortable obligation-laden market driven credit card fest of the entire year. Is it any wonder that suicides, drinking, and divorce rates all go up during the Holidays?
I don’t have a tip sheet on how to change this but I do know that that’s not the way it should be. We should be ready for this season. The months between Christmas and Easter should be just as joyful as the months between Easter and Christmas. We should always be filled with joy and peace and the Word of God. Instead we spend two or three months shopping and nine or ten months wondering how we are going to pay for all this junk. America’s shallow vision of Christmas is just about as deep as her favorite religion—Evangelical Christianity. It’s more of a feeling than anything, an emotional lift. If you’re not just brimming with Joy! come December you must not really be saved. Which is clearly bunk because even the most saintly saints get stuck in the Ho-Ho-hole. And yet we continue, as Christians, to throw ourselves into the ritual, the yearly Rite of The Clean Conscience that requires the payment of a gift to those we can’t avoid buying for and a Christmas card for everyone else in the known universe to that we can say we’re still friends and also to contribute to the job security of tens of thousands of postal employees. Wouldn’t it be easier to put prayer wheels over collection buckets at the entrances to all the malls?
How ever it finds you though and what ever tradition your family has to celebrate Christmas its important to remember that there isn’t anything that we can really do to screw it up–and aren’t we glad. Jesus came in spite of our expectations or beliefs. He came in spite of what he knew we would do with Him and to Him—the very idea of Emanuel is something that we can’t stomach at a very basic level. He came at Christmas expecting Easter so that we could celebrate. No matter how hard we try no matter how grumpy and Scrooge-like we become Christmas remains–the birthday of Jesus Christ.