Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jesus is the Reason...

I'll admit, I was a little grinchy this year, actually, if I'm honest, I get a little grinchy every year.

Its hard for me to "get into the spirit" when I know the spirit only lasts for about 30 days.  It seems that Christmas spirit is an ambience that depends on the presence of gingerbread candles and holiday albums to exist. It is like a short-lived mask that we put on with the Christmas lights.

It doesn't follow for me that putting a hiatus on hate, pain, selfishness, indulgence, waste, want, suffering, or bitterness for 30 days is any kind of victory. The kind of fair-weather charity and kindness that, in truth, is more about fulfilling an expected standard of joy or generosity than actually being joyous or generous for their own sake, does not hold me captive.

So why the depressing post, Sarah? Why pollute everyone else's meaningful holiday season with your humbuggery? Well I tell you this so that you'll fully appreciate the fact that
I cried on Christmas Eve.
That's right kids, I watched a emotionally manipulating, cheesy, viral internet video and I cried. I'm of course talking about A Social Network Christmas. If you haven't seen this video, its a simple retelling of Luke 2 via Facebook updates. Yep, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zecheriah are all there even the angels and shepherds make an appearance. Its a silly idea, isn't it? But, really, how much of your story is already being told via status updates?

Anyway, as I watched this film in my darkened church sanctuary, I realized with horror that I was getting more than a little misty. I did a frantic self-inventory,
"Is my cynicism still intact? Am I morphing into one of them?? Am I going to start listening to the 'Christmas Shoes' and watching Hallmark movies?!?"
It made it worse that several people in the room were laughing out loud.
"Oh no! Its a funny video! Its a gag video and I'm crying. Dangit!Dangit!Dangit!"
But, in spite of my internal panic, I realized that I didn't feel emotionally manipulated. The reason the story was so moving wasn't the music and it wasn't production; there were no lisping kids, and falsely uplifting stories. It was so moving because it was true.
The video wasn't moving, the story of Jesus Christ's birth is moving.
As I considered the reason for my tears and lined it up next to my grinchy tendencies, I realized that Christmas, as we so often celebrate it, doesn't hold any magic for me because it is about our charity and our generosity. Our charity and our generosity are so pathetic that they can barely last thirty days. We can barely extend grace to our own families for the week or so we have to spend with them; we don't reserve any Christmas cheer for the slow cashier at Wal-Mart. How can that kind of Christmas Spirit hold any magic?

The story of Christ is moving because it is not a thirty-day mask, it is not dependent on Christmas carols, or holiday smells. It doesn't exist only in candlelight. While I still object to the phrase "Jesus is the reason for the season," on principle (it just sounds a little to cute to be profound), I am beginning to understand that, even with our poor attempts to create a false sense of generosity, even with our store-front joy and airbrushed hope, we can't cheapen the message of Christ.

In fact, the more we try to paint and package Christmas the more authentic His message is by comparison. So Dr. Suess got close, with his message of Christmas without wrapping paper and bows. Charles Dickens got even closer with his message about universal love and generosity. But both, God love them, missed the mark. Christmas isn't about love or hope, it isn't about joy or generosity. Christmas is about Jesus and only Jesus.

"...God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Gal 6:14

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