Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Real Adults Send Christmas Cards

Maybe someday I'll get around to that. But until then, merry Christmas from me to anyone who is reading my blog on this chilly, but not too cold Texas night!

I have to confess. Christmas is not my favorite holiday. And it isn't even the materialism, commercialism, blah, blah, blah that bothers me. Odd, right? I know. I have a difficult time -- I'm holding my breath even typing this; like, 'Can I really say what I'm about to say, knowing how absurd it sounds?' -- understanding the point. Yikes. There it is for the whole world to read!

Admitting this causes me to think, 'What is the point?' And thinking about it, I realize I'm simply searching for some ground in between the hullabaloo and the reactionary "Jesus is the reason for the season". I do understand why Christmas is a big deal and why it is worth getting excited, even super-excited about, but I lose sight of it. Or probably more on point, I just haven't really allowed myself to ask the question, and therefore haven't thought through it for myself. I think I've been a little ashamed for feeling dissatisfied with the quick and easy "Jesus answers", so I pushed that dissatisfaction aside and tried not to think about it too much. I could do that in part because I don't like big celebrations... they're not my style. I think that, in part, for this is also the reason Easter has always been my favorite holiday, but that's another blog for another day. I know what you're thinking, 'How can someone who understands Easter not understand Christmas?' When it comes to Christmas, I'm a little desensitized to both sides: both the redundant commercialism and the pat, redundant church talk. That is mostly my fault for not thinking through all this stuff for myself.

So here we go: Why is Christmas meaningful to me personally? It has always been important because of family. I enjoy slowing down to just hang out with people I love. But that's not enough because I know that's not what Christmas is primarily about. I was just with all my family, chilling and playing games and eating, during Thanksgiving, and nothing feels missing when I enjoy Thanksgiving because of spending time with those for whom I'm thankful. But something is missing when Christmas is only about human relationships. Not to say that God has nothing to do with Thanksgiving or that Christmas has nothing to do with family... I think you understand.

What helps me understand Christmas most is the spirit of advent, which is, of course, a big part of what I love about Easter. When I think of the months, years (?) of labor, discipline and scholarship of the Wise Men and the years of discipline of prayer and study of Simeon and Anna, that's exciting. When I think of the Old Testament customs and prophecies being fulfilled, that's exciting. It's motivating and challenging to think of the ministry of Christ on earth and what it means to live as a disciple of his teachings of the Kingdom.

So I think the conclusion I'm coming to as I'm writing this is that Christmas is less about Christ being born to atone for our sin (otherwise, let's just skip it and go straight to Easter), and more about the simultaneous culmination and beginning of God's massive redemptive character and action and all that entails with Christ ushering in the Kingdom ("a time is coming and has now come...") and calling his followers to do the same, to continue praying "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" by being ministers of his reconciliation.

There are other, unrelated reasons why Christmas is slightly difficult, but I think sorting through the theological issues will help a lot with the interpersonal struggles connected to the holidays. So heartily I say agian, merry Christmas. Thank you for allowing me to journey through thoughts about Christmas; I look forward to continuing to journey with you through the new year.


John said...

Your post kind of reminds me of my discipler when I lived in Alaska for a summer. At one point he realized that he never really prayed when he bowed his head before a meal. So he decided then that he would not pray before a meal again until he really meant it. He didn't pray before a meal for 7 years, but eventually came to a point in his walk where he could honestly thank God for his food, and then he started again.

Great post.

renea mac said...

Funny thing is, I've had similar thoughts about prayer at meals and prayer in general too, but 7 years, wow.

Thanks, John for your feedback.

valerie said...

Christmas isn't just celebrating Christ coming to earth, it's celebrating Christ coming to earth *again.* In Advent we not only remember the anticipation of the world for the Messiah, but we practice the discipline of anticipation for the Second Coming. In this way, Easter and Christmas are really very similar holidays. At Easter, though, we specifically focus on the Resurrection and the promises that it secured for us: (among others) our own physical resurrection. At Christmas, we celebrate the Lover's return to the Beloved. We look forward to it while praying, "O come, O come Emmanuel." Or, in other words, "Maranatha."

renea mac said...

Yes, precisely. Once again you are able to say what it is I'm trying to say with more clarity. Thank you for expounding on what I took for granted when I talked about advent.

Oh Val, in a few days we get to have these chats in person!

Katrina said...

You know, I had never really thought about it in that much detail, but I totally agree.