Saturday, December 11, 2010

HOW CHRISTIANS EMPTY CHRISTMAS OF MEANING

11th in the "Unsettling Advent" series

From my perspective, the so-called "War on Christmas" is no war at all. It is a fabrication, an exploitation, a fear-monger's fantasy and a news industrialist's exploitation.  It is not the marketplace or mainstream culture that are called upon to uphold the meaning and symbols of Christmas.  Dare Christians and the church count on those who have more interest in profit margins than meaning to protect and promote the Christmas story?

It is not the marketplace or any so-called secular conspiratorial "War on Christmas" that can drain Christmas of its meaning. It is Christians and the church who pose the greatest threat to the meaning and promise of Christmas.  How so?

1. By doing unnecessary enemy formation regarding those whom we perceive to be anti-Christmas or ant-Christian or anti-Christ.  How much emotional and spiritual energy do we waste on this?  And it will take even more effort to undo the damage, reverse our course, and live in love of our neighbors.  Earlier today, I listened on NPR to representative of the Catholic League try to justify his organization's investment of $20,000 in a billboard (below) to counter-punch the anti-Christmas billboard of an atheist group (above). It was rather pathetic.  Stop before you bite on the hook of fear and suspicion--or the need to counter-punch those who publicly assert another way.

2. By hailing Christmas and lauding the Incarnation without embracing and incarnating its way of life.  We decorate the story of God becoming flesh and blood in the Son during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  This is a story that places a burden (however light) on all who believe it: follow Jesus.  Incarnate such love. Empty yourself.  Walk his walk.  Love whom he loved.  Serve as he served. Include whom he included.  Defend those whom he defended.  Release those oppressed by domination by religious, state and cultural practices and powers as he did.  Forgive as he forgave.  Die as he died.  Live in hope as he did.  Unless we do this, we drain Christmas of its meaning more than any mere marketer ever could.

3. By plunging headlong into the commercialization of Christmas as a mere consumer and non-critical participant. The influence of the marketplace is subtle and strong. It is easy for followers of Jesus to be swayed to the point of following its lead and justifying mindlessly indulging in Christmas-hyped actions "in the spirit of Christmas." Primary identity and primary meaning is at stake here.  Putting first things first in Advent and Christmas puts the Biblical story and meaning in the driver's seat.  From this primary story and meaning--this shining light--let joyful celebration flow.

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