I like to think of myself as a writer.
When I was in sixth grade, my favorite homework was the writing assignments. I loved making up stories, playing with words, creating worlds where my characters could interact and accomplish great things.
Deep down, I think I understood that I would most likely never do anything truly great, so at least I could imagine other people doing great things, and live somewhat vicariously through them.
Well, Christmas is a tempting time of year for me because I still want my words to matter. At this time of year, more than any other, I want them to turn into fire.
I want them to burn when they hit the ears of those who hear me. I want to send emissaries from my mouth to invade the space between your ears; living there and colonizing your mind; breeding a society of thought that just might leave you different than you were.
Alas, like the Martians in the War of the Worlds, I understand that more often than not my words die from diseases they were never prepared to endure.
After all, your mind is foreign ground.
So “What’s tempting about Christmas?” you might be wondering. Well, it’s tempting to believe that for some reason this is going to be the Christmas that changes the world. In the church, we spend the month of December waiting. It’s what’s called ‘advent’, meaning something new has happened and is happening.
We wait for the kingdom of God, understanding it has already come and yet is not fully here. Symbolically we wait for the birth of Christ (which we supposedly celebrate on December 25), but at least mentally we know that there’s more to the story than a pregnant teen and her kid.
But in the meantime we fill our waiting with so much (pardon my language)… crap…that the meaning, the symbolism, and the mystery of the Advent become lost in the …well…crap of the season.
Instead of living into the reality of “God With Us” and all that could mean, we wage our wars about “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas”.
We’re so busy “Keeping Christ in Christmas” that we haven’t bothered putting Christmas in the Resurrected Christ who makes all things new!
Is this a theological shortcoming? Is it just ecclesiastical sloth? Does it have to do with sloppy study of scripture, bible studies that too often degenerate into nothing more than “an unedifying pooling of ignorance”?
In part, I think the answer is yes to all. It’s tempting to blame consumerism, commercialization, rampant materialism, and individualization; but the truth of the matter is that those are secondary concerns. How will our people combat consumerism when they have no idea as to why they should? How will the Advent make any difference unless people see for themselves why it matters?
The temptation is to think that this Christmas will make the difference, when the only difference that was needed in the world was made 2,000 years ago. It’s the story of God who spoke Christ into the world that makes the difference we can be a part of.