Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas everyone

Merry Christmas everyone!

I decided today that I don’t care for Christmas much. In part, the conclusion came while trying to find appropriate gifts for my wife and daughter. Over the years, I’ve learned that out there in the retail world, there just isn’t anything that does my love for them justice. And even if there were, I probably wouldn’t recognize it.

Adding to the gift shopping blues, of course, is the problem of justifying the frantic activity that precedes the holiday. Simultaneous this year with a Messiah performance, numerous banquets, concerts and parties, etc. we were hosting a virus in our household, a stubborn one that seemed determined to undermine the enjoyment of each event. There just wasn’t time to rest and get well, it seemed.

Why should it be like this? Today I was browsing in the November 27th, 2007 Christian Century. In it, Valerie Weaver-Zercher—in an article entitled Wedding, Inc.—refers to journalist Rebecca Mead[1] as follows: “Although none of the writers [about the commercialization of weddings] is equipped to counsel pastors, all of them detail the way in which commercial interests have stepped into what Mead calls the ‘vacuum of authority’ regarding how people should marry(30).” I think it would be appropriate to surmise that we don’t know how to celebrate Christmas anymore, just like we don’t know how to marry, and that commercial interests have stepped into the “vacuum of authority” and are telling us how it ought to be done. Frankly, I don’t like their agenda for the holidays.

One of the items adding to the busyness of the season was a sermon I promised to deliver on the Sunday before New Year. I’m half done at this point, and will have to work on it while we’re at our daughter’s place in Edmonton over Christmas. What to say that could help people? I’m going to compare our New Year to that of other cultures—briefly—particularly the Jewish Rosh Hashanah, which, according to my sources, is a time of introspection, renewal and celebration, based on the religious notion that God is assessing our individual conduct over the past year and is urging us to evaluate and renew our commitment to him.

Now, suppose we were to scrap—or at least downplay—the Christmas celebration because of it’s ambiguity and its co-option by Santa Clause and his cohorts and replace it with a new New Year. Falling on March 22, it would herald the approach of spring, and would be similar to Rosh Hashanah in that it would be a solemn occasion for introspection, renewal of commitment, and finally, a gigantic day of feasting and celebration, dancing and singing to honour the LORD’s care over the earth and its people and the promise of a good year of sowing and harvest, learning and growing.

How long would it take for the commercial interests to co-opt that? Well, the telling factor would be whether or not we allowed the development of a “vacuum of authority” to invite the secular world to tell us how to celebrate it in a way that would heighten once again the urge to consume with great profligacy.

We’ll get through Christmas again. I sense that there are people around me who don’t feel the disappointment with the season that I do. Perhaps they have filled the vacuum themselves with something meaningful. I hope so.

Meanwhile, we did decide this year to reduce our spending on gifts for one another to a minimum, and instead, we’ve donated what we would tend to spend ordinarily to an MCC Global Family education project in Uganda. I suspect that in the future, we may enlarge on this way of celebrating Christmas, and hopefully fill the vacuum for ourselves that way.

Merry Christmas, everybody. And a Rosh Hashanah New Year

[1] See Mead, Rebecca, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. Penguin Books

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