Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas revisited

I find it interesting that there are two editorial pieces in the New York Times this morning about Christmas.

The first is titled, Hark the Herald Angels Didn't Sing. Written by T.M. Luhrmann the piece is about what the Pope wrote, using a pseudonym, to help educate Catholics about Christmas.

The second is titled, Holidays Without God written as a debate between two contributors about the need for God to be present in the celebration and even whether much of the basis for the holidays: Hanukkah and Christmas is valid. There is a deeper undertone of trying to bring together the two faith communities during this season and help the kids through the month.

It is so like us as a people to redefine the things we find difficult to make them understandable. Once, a long time ago, people thought the world was flat and that Earth was the center of the universe.

Do we need to redefine God and Christmas?

Golly, I hope not. But it seems that Christmas gets old, and it gets a year older every time it comes around. Maybe we get bored and forget the message.

I feel that way. I grow weary of the same old songs (some call them carols) played non-stop on the radio from Thanksgiving until Christmas. I worry that people believe we can boil the holiday down into a couple of tired songs, some traditions that we've forgotten the reasons for, and silver bells on the street corners.

We've become too familiar and comfortable with the basic concept.

One of the authors puts it this way:

"My children know the history and mythology behind each holiday, and we’ve even talked about the reasons for the timing — we observe Jesus’s birth at this time of year to counter the pagan celebration of the solstice, and we’ve elevated Hanukkah, a relatively minor holiday, to offer an alternative to Christmas for Jewish children. My kids pick up on some of this at school, too, along with a healthy dose of Kwanzaa. "

She goes on to write later:

"And we all know, as I said before, that Jesus isn't really the "reason for the season." The winter solstice is, and the darkness that closes in so early, and a very human desire that predates this whole discussion to light a candle against it."
So rational, historic, and human-focused. She takes the awe right out of Christmas. 

For me, it is the tired songs that bring me down. This season, I stumbled across a new Christmas song by Tobymac titled Christmas this Year that addresses the weariness and put spark and awe back into the holiday. Part of the bridge is:

It's all love
The season is a gift
When love came down to let us live
Let's open up and let our hearts embrace this moment

No matter when when or where we celebrate this season--we need to remain focused on the real reason--God deciding to come to live with people and provide a means to repair our relationship with Him. 

That is the first gift. Whether there were oxen and donkeys or not. And whether the angels sang or shouted (sorry Pope--its not's working for me)--the first gift came from God to restore our relationship. It is not a myth--it is not a nice story. It is not history or historical. It is still happening in our hearts if we let it--every day and every year.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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