Last week I wrote about the beautiful hope to be found in Christmas and the longing people have for that hope. I reflected we should be less suspicious of people’s motives when they are enthusiastic about Christmas.
A week later I still think this is all true. However, I also realize it could have come across as a bit overly optimistic or even namby-pamby. I want to humbly acknowledge and give respect to all the grinches out there. To those whose eyes are wide open to the tragic irony of this season, my words could have been a bit grating. I even knew this as I was writing but I remembered one of my preaching professors saying, “you can’t say everything in any one sermon.” Especially not if you like to keep things short.
So, yes, I too note the bitter irony when St. Nicholas, a man committed to helping the poor, is turned into a silly elf who gives gifts on the basis of some loose general idea of morality, (you better be good, you better not cry...), rather than need.
I seethe when one of my favorite Christmas hymns, O Holy Night, is turned into a repetition of only the first verse. Leave it to our society to know the words all about shining stars and a baby and totally neglect the meatier, meaningful words of a later verse which include: “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression will cease.”
The more cynical side of me acknowledges much of the excitement about Christmas could be due to the fact it is winter, and it is dark and cold and we need an excuse to celebrate.
I recognize my own hypocrisy when I spend more on my friends and family than I do on helping those in need.
Most especially, my heart breaks for the ones for whom Christmas exacerbates the hurt, the sorrow, the destitution, the loneliness, the grief which they are already experiencing. How much more meaningful would Christmas be if we worried more about these folks than the ridiculous idea of a supposed “War on Christmas?” How much more would we honor the babe in the manger if we took steps to ensure next Christmas would find far fewer heartbroken by poverty, war, violence and the like?
I have my own grinchy thoughts at Christmas time. Yet I still suspect hope is stronger than we think and love is moving us closer to the kingdom of God both by our hands and despite our failings.
A heartfelt Merry Christmas and an equally hearty Bah, Humbug! to you all.
by Sheri Ellwood