already pondering Christmas

For whatever reason, I don’t like Christmas.

I think it has something to do with the over commercialism of Christmas and the reality that I feel like I have to buy things from shopping malls. In the past, I would have pushed back my emotions, stuck my head in the sand and kept going on with the season at full pace but this year is different…I am already preparing myself for something different. I want to fully engage Advent Conspiracy as our community of faith engages it. I have desires to worship God more fully, spend less on things that will eventually be garbage, give more money away to people who need it and love all by contributing to God’s work. I want to be creative with the gifts that I give. I want to spend more time with family. I want to make memories. This is my wish list for Christmas.

As I was reading today about Jesus’ birth, I encountered some great quotes by Frederick Buechner in The Faces of Jesus that give me hope around the season of Advent and Christmas:

“At Christmas time it is hard even for the unbeliever not to believe in something, if not in everything. Peace on earth, good will to men; a dream of innocence that is good to hold onto even if it is only a dream; the mystery of being a child; the possibility of hope—not even the canned carols piped out over the shopping center parking plaza from Thanksgiving on can drown it out entirely.” (14-15)

“…when the child was born the whole course of human history was changed. That is a truth as unassailable as any truth. Art, music, literature, Western culture itself with all its institutions and Western man’s whole understanding of himself and his world—it is impossible to conceive how differently things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did. And there is a truth beyond that: For millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.” (17)

“For better or worse, it is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him. And they have gone on proclaiming as the writers of the Gospels proclaimed before them, that through the birth of Jesus a life-giving power was released into the world which to their minds could have been no less than the power of God himself.” (17)

“Like any baby, Jesus as a baby does not judge or exhort or puzzle the world with his teaching. He makes no demands, threatens no punishment, offers no rewards. The world is free to take him or leave him. He does not rule the world from his mother’s lap but, like any child, is himself at the mercy of the world.” (20)

“In trying to say too much, piety always runs the risk of saying too little or saying it wrong, and the great pitfall of Christian art, especially when it tries to portray the birth of Christ, is sentimentalism. The stable becomes a painted backdrop, the floor a carpeted stage, the manger a prop lined with artificial straw. Neither the holiness nor the humanness of the moment is rendered so much as the schmaltz, and the Incarnation becomes merely a Christmas card with all the scandal taken out of it instead of what St. Paul called “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles,” instead of the proclamation that the Creator of the end of the earth came among us in diapers.” (20-21)

“As long as he stays the babe in the manger, he asks us nothing harder than to love him and accept his love, and the temptation is thus to keep him a babe forever, for our sakes and for his sake too.” (23)

If you are like me and don’t like Christmas, I hope these reflections by Buechner might lead you to rethink and reenact Christmas differently this year.

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About Josh

Ordinary man in an extraordinary world: follower, sinner, husband, dad, son, brother, friend, cultivator, pastor, player, dreamer, writer, and artist.

Posted on 10.13.2008, in books, Christ, Jesus. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey Josh, Do you recall a book, the Hundred Dollar Christmas by Bill McKibben? It was an earlier wave of the Advent Conspiracy way of thinking. Anyway I got it from the library and was re-inspired to put boundaries on our holiday in hopes of making it a more holy month of days. Like in Lent when we need to “take on” as well as “give up,” Buechner is a good reminder of what to save as we don’t spend. Thanks for airing out the church calendar rituals.

  2. you are a busy man, oh boss of mine. but you really ought to write more often…you have rad things to say 🙂

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