Well, as I write this it’s 1 a.m. Christmas morning, and I’m waiting for my kids to go to bed so I can do the stocking thing and go to bed, too. The living room is filled with opened gifts (our family tradition is to open most gifts on Christmas Eve), and a few saved for tomorrow. I received some new photography equipment, which at the moment is kind of intimidating, as I really don’t know what I’m doing.
For many years, my standard line about Christmas was that I didn’t like to mix my religion with my holidays; I guess you could call that my “iconoclast” period. That has changed, however neither do I need to reach to find some spirituality within the food, family and gifts. My fresh appreciation for the Incarnation has changed all that.
Some of my friends don’t share my particular worldview, and I confess that this saddens me, as the reality of the Incarnation – the birth of Jesus, the “God-man” – offers so much. It’s not just the non-believers I’m speaking about, but also the many Christians who have fallen for various versions of dualism that sees only the spiritual as good, and what is Earthly as evil. To them, the extravagance and commercialism stands as “anti-Christian,” although I only know of one person who claims not to buy Christmas gifts (who also is not a parent). Some people buy moderately (there’s nothing wrong with that), compromising high ideals with reality, and giving in to the expectations that Christmas brings. They try to resolve this by imposing some sense of spirituality to Christmas by doing things like wearing buttons reminding us to “keep the Christ in Christmas.” However, if you have to reach for it, you’ve missed it.
The reality of Christmas in some respects stands apart from all of the trimmings; it doesn’t matter, for example, that Jesus was probably born at some other time of the year, or that various non-Christian traditions have merged with this particular holy-day. What matter is that Jesus was, indeed, born as a man and that God indeed got “down and dirty” to become one with man, so that we could become one with Him.
Giving gifts to those we love (and perhaps to a few we don’t), giving to the poor, celebrating with feasts and fun, are – or could be – all incarnational activities, and besides, they’re just great fun. And, if it helps boost the economy, so much the better. I should mention that receiving doesn’t suck, either.
Receiving is also what Christmas is about. This season, I encourage you to receive life, and truth, and “peace on Earth, good will toward men.” The reality of Christmas is always here; we just focus on it one month out of the year. Everything we do this Christmas should be a reminder that God indwells his creation; in a manner of speaking, He is present in the presents, or at least the giving of them. He is here, Immanuel, God With Us, not just at Christmas, but certainly during Christmas.
Well, most of my family are having sugar plum dreams, and it’s time for another long winter’s nap. Norad shows Santa has been here and gone, and is now somewhere over Hawaii. Tomorrow there will be more food, more time with family, more fun, and even a few more gifts. Bring it on!
Have a very merry Christmas!