Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating Immanuel

It is going to be a weird Christmas in our family. It is looking like we are going to spend the long Christmas holiday weekend (ooh, I said "holiday" in conjunction with Christmas!) moving our household from our rental house to our new home. That might seem to be a pretty cruddy way of spending Christmas-time as a family. Our poor kids are going to "miss Christmas" this year.

On the other hand...

This year we are as a family moving from a house to a home, a place that God willing will be our home for many, many years. A home where we put down roots and reach out to others. A place of security and refuge for our children, a place where they can always come. Ten years from now that bauble under a tree will likely be forgotten but a home? That is something to remember. I am not willing to go into much detail but it is an incredible act of providence that we are in a position to buy this home and I cannot express how thankful we are. When I look back at "Christmas 2010" I will remember it as a time when I was able to provide a permanent home for my family, a home where someday I hope to welcome back on a regular basis my grandchildren and my children and their spouses.

That doesn't change the fact that the traditional Christmas is not going to happen this year. Christmas is a big deal in our culture and it is especially so to children and ours are no different. I am finding myself rethinking the whole thing. It is not merely the materialism it promotes (although that is terrible and blasphemous), it is the general crassness of the way the church deals with the advent of God coming in the flesh. The miraculous birth of Jesus Christ reduced to a religious tradition. Sure we sing songs that mention Him and read the appropriate pages of Scripture and even put little images of Him in a manger surrounded by our culturally formed vision of what this whole event looks like but I am just finding that the whole tradition cheapens the celebration of Immanuel, "God with us". Even our self-righteous indignation over secular legal constructs that are profit driven instructing their employees to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is pure silliness and vanity, as if Christ is glorified because a senior citizen who is working as a greeter at Wal-Mart says "Merry Christmas" to shoppers flocking to a store to spend money on stuff. I can think of few things more foolish than so called ministers parading themselves on TV, all puffed up in their self-righteousness because a bank takes down a Christmas tree from their lobby. We are not called to be footsoldiers in the "War on Christmas", we are called to be Gospel minsters in the war for the souls of men. We need to take our cues from Paul, not Bill O'Reilly.

Maybe it isn't really a bad thing to "skip" Christmas this year. There are plenty of good reasons to do so as Christians (see Becky Lynn Black on Why We No Longer Celebrate Christmas and Christmas: Going On From Here) and virtually no good reasons to celebrate a cultural tradition that has little to do with the coming of the Messiah and that is a comfortable annual ritual shared among believers, unbelievers and heretics alike. In the years to come perhaps we can focus on serving others in this time of the year and celebrate the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ every day instead of once a year (and celebrate His resurrection every day instead of the weekend He has to share with the Easter Bunny). Our kids have so much that we literally are giving stuff away and yet society tells us they need more, they need new, they need better. Is that the message we really should be participating in as Christian parents?

This may not sit well with some (many?) and it is not my intent to condemn anyone who does or does not celebrate Christmas. It is just something I have been contemplating and it is something that we place so much emphasis on in the church and seem to give little thought to. We are so wrapped up in the "how" of our Christmas celebration that we seemed to have skipped the "why" or "if" of the matter and that is never OK. I am not sure where this is going, perhaps I will sleep on it and decide it is overblown. Perhaps I will sleep on it and think it through and come to the conclusion that like so many good things, we have taken what God has given and adapted it to the world.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Sits just fine with me.

What wonderful Christmas memories your family will be making this weekend. Traditions in the making. The gift that will keep on giving for years and years and years to come.

Seriously, your getting/giving a HOME. It doesn't get much better than that. How exciting!

James said...

It's been a year since this post.

Just curious whether or not sleeping on it helped you decide it was overblown, or if you have made progress in your contemplation of the topic?

Arthur Sido said...

I haven't actually given it much thought. My family bought gifts for the kids and we opened them yesterday. I think of Christmas as just another culturally derived religious tradition, little different from "going to church". Celebrating it does nothing to advance or detract from the Kingdom.