My friend said in dismay, "I don't know, this has always been a happy time of year for me. But this year," shrugging his shoulders, "I'm just not feeling it." Actually, I think it a good sign, although at first a little disturbing, when that which we have learned to call "the Christmas spirit" is seen once and for all to be a pale and somewhat gooey make-believe--even absent the fat guy in the red suit.
Ah, but then everyone thinks they know the "true meaning of Christmas." Probably we're all like the blind men trying to identify the elephant. What each of us concludes will depend upon which part of the animal we're clutching at the moment. Two things that might help:
An incredible poem by G. K. Chesterton, called The House of Christmas. One part of it reads:
This world is wild as an old wives' tale,But you must read the whole thing. Do it now!
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
And once more (at least) we site our favorite Christmas blogger (thus far): Eight Strings. His latest installment, The Containment of Christmas, part 3 is the best yet. Nate is getting to the crux of the matter, the heart and soul of why Christmas is really a season of conflict in our hearts. Because we who say we "know God" have not in fact responded to this message as we should, but conveniently buried it in seasonal trappings. The real thing is not sticky-sweet, but challenging and even when necessary harsh. Nate writes:
It is a convenient time of year for secular offendedness at Christianity to clash with the pop-Christianity assertion that our national and cultural roots are in Christian tradition. In a fight between two boys of significant age difference, the blame lies most heavily with the older. Likewise in the holiday debate, the responsibility for a spiritually mature perspective that is free from backbiting and self-righteousness rests with the Truth-bearers, not with the lost. We expected nothing less from the secular world. In fact, their standoffishness is eerily Biblical. The Gospel threw the Pharisees and Greek intellectuals into an uproar. This, they perceived, was outright foolishness and an attack on their personal sovereignty. Even Herod saw what Christians apparently do not. Prophecy told of a King over all kings, and this inevitable usurpation struck fear into him. So afraid he was, that he murdered all the male infants in Bethlehem in an effort to preserve himself. We are not so honest. We pretend that there is no threat, that Jesus has not come to finally and completely unseat us from our throne, and crush every vestige of our power. We would rather that he came to support the Church's goal to be the hegemonic voice on the public stage, or at least pose cutely with children and animals. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. This kind of Christmas should be more than offensive. It should force every last onlooker to an inner decision: either throw themselves in weakness at the feet of Jesus or, with the rich young ruler, turn their backs and leave.Disclaimer: I would recommend this post every bit as highly even if Nate were not my own son!