I want to make a modest proposal. Let’s cancel Christmas. This year. Call off Tuesday night. Cancel Wednesday morning worship. Let’s skip it this year.
Now, before you cry “Grinch” hear me out. Having Christmas this week is simply exhausting. Yesterday, I did the unthinkable. I braved the stores. I wanted salt before the storm came and we were out. The local hardware store was already closed so I was left with the big box store. And they were packed. Not with the jolly feeling of Christmas cheer – but that angsty mix of gingerbread lattes and desperation. Toy shelves were lacking, only the least desirable Legos left.
The shopping, the pressure for the perfect gift, or if there will even be gifts. This isn’t simply some #FirstWorldProblem. This plays out in our emotional lives, our feelings of self-worth, our place on the playground – whether that playground is at school or work or the family table.
So, let’s cancel Christmas, take back those gifts and breath a sigh of relief.
It’s not just the consumerism that makes me want to cancel Christmas. It is also the 24-hour media-industrial-complex that is starving for some new way to tell a 2000-year-old story. We can’t talk about incarnation – that doesn’t really play well with the advertisers. So, the new way to tell the story – the story all week – Jesus was white and Duck ducking Dynasty.
Let me be clear. These are not real stories. They are not news. They are distractions. But since we’re all supposed to be thinking about God and stuff, they become substitutions for religious conversation and devotional thought.
Jesus was not white. One of the best descriptions has been floating through the interwebs is this:
And by the way, I was here yesterday. Santa ain’t white either.
And then somehow this guy ends up representing all of Christendom. Because controversy sells so lets pit the gay-tors against the flag wavers and have ourselves a self-fueling twitter-sphere battle.
Christmas is not about these things. So let’s stop feeding the beast and just cancel it. Let’s skip the fake “happy holidays” vs. “merry Christmas” debate.
No? No takers?
Well, here’s the thing – let’s not skip it all together. Let’s move it to Jesus birthday. See, December 25th is just Christmas Day (Observed) like MLK Day or President’s Day. We know this because the shepherds were watching their flocks by night. It’s gonna be 39 degrees Tuesday night. That’s cold. The shepherds weren’t out in the fields in the winter. They went out during lambing season, when the new lambs were being born.
If we believe that account, Jesus was probably born in May. So, let’s cancel Christmas this week and celebrate it May 1st.
It makes perfect sense: let’s connect his birthday with a major day for labor and immigration rights. Because those days have way more to do with the life and ministry of Jesus than most of what passes for holiday celebrations in December. Jesus was constantly talking about economic justice, about the rights of the exploited working class. Jesus welcomed those of different nationalities (Samaritans). He himself was an immigrant/refugee fleeing to Egypt to avoid the persecution of his government.
So, May 1st, Jesus birthday.
OK, well, if we’re going to go ahead and celebrate Christmas this week, let’s do it right. Let’s celebrate the real reason we give gifts. It was the magi who brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh (this is why many in the world exchange gifts on Epiphany, the celebration of 3 Kings Days). They brought gifts and then knelt down to pay homage to the king.
The gifts we give should be a reflection of Love, the love we know through Jesus, the love we’ve been given, the love we share.
There is nothing wrong with sharing gifts with your loved ones. Christmas gifts are a beautiful tradition. Give gifts – but make sure they are a reflection of that love and not a substitute.
The things we say – the things we tweet, and post and write and speak and preach and live – all these things are a chance to reflect Jesus love. We combat hatred with love. We don’t debate because loving all of God’s children is not debatable.
We recognize the radical nature of our God, of a messiah born in backwater Bethlehem, of what John’s gospel tells us: For. God. So. Loved. The. World. Loved us. And them.
We need not tolerate intolerance. And we need not feed ignorance.
We commit ourselves to lives of purpose, of Love in Action.
This is what Christmas is all about. This is what we are preparing for.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel!
Let’s celebrate the real joy to the world: mothers and fathers welcoming new children, kids being adopted, families being strengthened, healing happening, food being shared. All of these are real reasons to rejoice. Think of all the places where you have received love. Recognize all the place you have to share love.
The blessing of community – loving and being loved – allows us to celebrate the true gift of God With Us.