The Christian church seems cynical at Christmas time. We see all sorts of people excited for Christmas, throwing themselves into the festivities of a church related season and we grumble about materialism, grouch about particular forms of greeting, bemoan abbreviations, and in general hold everyone’s motives as suspect.
Surely there is much materialism rampant in our culture year round and heightened in this season. Some are just in it for the festivities and excitement Christmas brings. Yet I think there is more to it than that.
Consider Christmas music. I love, love, love Christmas music. There are so many beautiful songs surrounding this time of year. Easter songs seem few and far between in comparison. Sure, this could be due to sentimentality. Singing of a baby is so sweet and cuddly. Yet Easter has victory and triumph going for it, things one would think would sell well in our society.
I wonder if the appeal of Christmas songs over Easter songs is because we are living more of a Christmas reality rather than an Easter one. We have not triumphed in this life. Sorrow is still a stark reality. Hope seems fragile and precious, to be cradled and protected. We still hear the cries of the children and mothers and fathers, weeping and moaning over the Slaughter of the Innocents. Triumph? No, not yet.
Hope though, maybe there is hope to be found if we look hard enough. Maybe we can find the small tender hope somewhere in this mess. So, we sing songs which speak to the longing for hope. We sing songs which whisper precious lullabies to a world captured by the insomnia of worry. We sing loud and boisterous songs of profound joy amidst the clanging of consumerism. I suspect there is more behind our love of Christmas than sentimentality. Deep down Christmas speaks to a desperate hope within us.
Perhaps the Christian church could set aside cynicism and recognize this longing for hope whether it greets us with “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hannukah,” “w’sup,” or a mere nob of acknowledgement.
Hope seems small and fragile, like a babe in a manger, in this world. Yet, I have a suspicion hope’s presence is more akin to a tenacious carpenter laboring to build bonds of love and unity. Not so fragile. Not so small. May we all embrace opportunities for service and compassion this season so that this suspicion is affirmed and hope is stronger than we think.
by Sheri Ellwood