Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…
Michael Krahn posted the other day on the issue of joy, and it got me thinking specifically about joy at Christmastime. As I’m sure we all know, “joy” is something that is usually identified with the Christmas holiday. Go to any store selling Christmas paraphernalia, and you’re sure to find ornaments, decorations and wrapping paper with “joy” (and “rejoice”) written all over it. However, our experience at Christmas is often anything but joyful. They should start marketing Christmas ornaments that say “stress.”
I was speaking with someone a week or so ago about how fast Christmas seems to be coming; it always seems to catch me by surprise, which just adds to the stress. It reminds me of Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath:
He picks up Gideon’s Bible
Open at page one
Old Charlie stole the handle and
The train, it wont stop going
No way to slow down.
Then, it seems that there are always unanticipated expenses that put an additional assault on our bank account. And, there are too many things to do, and not enough time to do them in. Where’s the joy in that? It seems that there are two ways to deal with the oncoming train: either we live in denial (and get creamed), or we run headlong into it. That, I believe, is where we find the joy. And, I’m thinking that those who we often accuse of missing “the Christ in Christmas” may have in reality discovered the joy.
A part of my response to Krahn’s afore-mentioned post was this:
I think that’s why Christmas is such a big deal to me and so many people – it’s a celebration of joy, of extravagance, or sheer silliness and excess. It may look at times like materialism (and I don’t deny that materialism is an issue), but could it simply be a breaking out of joy, expressed in a culturally acceptable manner?
As discussed a couple of weeks ago, America is a place where we don’t know how to dance. We have no traditional expressions of joy. Even our partying seems to be more of a way to avoid and cover up stress and depression more than expressions of joy, as may be found in other cultures.
So, here we have Christmas, which is by any account a knock-down, drag-out kind of holiday. We simply have nothing else like it. Every other holiday gets one day – Christmas now begins in late October or early November, and by December it’s in full swing, with parties, decorations, music, movies, concerts, shopping and food. It is an all-out celebration, involving all aspects of our lives. Those who are of other religions (or no religion) have by now realized that “the train, it won’t stop going…” and they either join in ignoring the religious aspects, or live in misery.
Eating, drinking, singing, spending lots of money buying gifts, giving to charity, all can be expressions of joy, even if we don’t realize it.
For those of us who are Christians, I don’t think we need to detract at all from the secular aspects of the holiday; I think that joy, even the non-spiritual version, is something that humans need to express for their emotional health. In America, we’re a pretty joy-constipated bunch. So, let everyone celebrate. But, Christians indeed have a joy which is of a different nature than that of the world (I think it’s okay to have both), and we get to express that, too.
I relish the purely human joy of Christmas, as I relish the joy that comes from knowing God. We can certainly recognize one without diminishing the other. So, let’s pull out the stops, and run headlong into the madness. Who knows, we may actually enjoy ourselves.