Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For the love of Murph, what is the "Christmas spirit" anyway?

Isn't it amazing how many "real meanings of Christmas" there are? You could get dozens of Christmas movies that are centered around discovering the true meaning of the season, and hear lots of songs on the radio about what the season is all about. But I would venture to say that we get ourselves pretty off-base on most of them. So why should I put out one more opinion in a blog post? Because I want to get it. The significance of this day that the Roman government set as tradition for western culture centuries ago surely isn't in the consumer-culture emphasis on buying stuff, stuff and more stuff for your family, friends, coworkers and cats. But lots of people recognize that - you don't have to be Christian to aspire to associate something more than covetousness with a holiday that brings us bright decorations, festive music, rich foods and celebrations with people we love. But for many the joy of the season and the festive feelings and happiness seem to be the substance (based on the Christmas music played in most business establishments anyway). But feeling without basis doesn't quite do it for me. Was Dickens right? Is it all about remembering the welfare of your fellow man and bringing joy to the poor? Well, I just saw A Christmas Carol performed live, and while I admire his concern for the plight of the poor and the blind misery of the rich and stingy, I think he's just seeing the shadow of the real meaning.
If this holiday is to commemorate the events of the nativity story, then we must catch the significance of Luke's account of Christ's birth among the humble and the poor, to a (probably) teenage mother who is caught off guard by her pregnancy, and the proclamation to lowly sheep farmers of his birth. His parents can only afford the poor person's sacrifice of two birds when they take him for his circumcision at the temple. But this is the glorious God who created all and possesses all. The glorious God stepped into his creation to express humble love.
The Christmas spirit, then, for believers, ought to be humble love. Isn't Philippians 2 a great Christmas passage, then? We celebrate the birth of Christ, the God-man, as a human baby. He enters into his creation, into a world where he will be surrounded by the corruption of sin which he hates, and voluntary takes human form to express his love.
When we remember the poor and needy at Christmas, as per Dickens' literary exhortation, we are not in the Christmas spirit if we do it for the sake of holiday sentimentality, but only if we do it to imitate the "Christmas spirit" of humble love.
The wonder of the incarnation, of what it means and how exactly it works can only be understood in part. How could he be fully God and fully man, without confusion or separation of the natures? It blows my mind! But he came in a very simple and practical way to incarnate God's love for the world. I really want to catch the Christmas spirit by humbly loving others. I really want to be a physical representation to my world that reflects the physical manifestation of God's love to the world. I really want to come with my metaphorical sheep on my metaphorical shoulders (i.e., out of my humble position with so little to offer people, and nothing to give God unless he gives it to me first) and look with adoration and amazement on the one who brings peace with God and makes possible the ongoing presence of God in our hearts through the Spirit. Let's catch the Christmas spirit by following the Spirit of Jesus, and, if Austin can accept this word, being spiritual.

“Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things and there is nothing else like it.”

Father Zosima in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov


VentiAmericano said...

You nailed it! Thanks for the reminder. Even to remember the baby Jesus is not profound enough. Indeed, humble love is what is displayed in that manger, right? Chris Rice has a great Christmas song called "Welcome to our World" that I love dearly.
It is upsetting to see how our culture celebrates Christmas. I am glad for the disposition to good deeds and stuff like that, I am so sad that He is missed entirely. (Although, it is interesting that I can still hear rich Christology blaring through the speakers at Saar's, Forza, etc. during this time of year.)
One more thing: this whole Santa (Satan) Clause ideology smacks hard against Biblical SOteriology, as we were reminded this last quarter. Why do we assert that we are "good" and that Santa should give us gifts? It's just frustrating to see the whole "I'm a good person" crap expanded this time of year. Maybe we should invent a anti-Santa that teaches BIblical truth.... never mind- it won't catch on- not jolly enough!

Who is Murph? I learned to say "for the love of Pete..." DO Pete and Murph know each other?

faithbornfromdoubt said...

I think that the Christmas Spirit is, to the world at large, become, under the influence of post modernism, a "whatever it means to you whatever holiday/faith you want to follow so long as it feels good sort of thing."

and its the "holiday spirit" by the way... bigot!

I'll respond more seriously on my blog :-)... thanks for addressing a mutual source of frustration! Have fun in Mehico

faithbornfromdoubt said...

and Surls,

you just have to get used to Duriga's corny/folksy expressions and pathetic attempts at humor. He's from nowhereville Ohio....