Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Meaning of Christmas

This is perhaps the holiday that elicits in us (or at least many of us) epistemological questions about the "reason for the season."

As a brief meditation prior to Christmas Eve worship, I have just a few theses concerning this:

1) What appears to be crass and materialistic by certain religious and ethical standards may, in point of fact, be in its very hiddenness, God-inspired and faithful. Our knee jerk reaction to the very shopping and gift-giving habits we engage in this season should give us pause.

2) Similarly, although the many charities we donate to this season deserve and need our financial support, our motivations for giving in order to get into the spirit of the season should be and are suspect. When we feel particularly good about our goodness, we need to apply suspicion quickly and closely.

3) Yes, it's a secular holiday. Yes, it's a religious holiday. And often what we think is secular is religious, and what we think religious is secular.

4) Recovery of certain kinds of secondary discourse around Christmas can't recover the faith of Christians all by itself. It is a lot of hot air.

5) Christmas is Christmas for no other reason than Christ (although even this point is sometimes abused by being used as a hammer of self-righteousness, like the placards in yards reading "Keep Christ in Christmas").

6) Because Christmas is about Christ, the sign I would prefer to put in my yard would read, "Keep the mass in Christ-mass." Although that will sound funny to Lutheran ears, welcome to other ears, and just plain confusing to most, nevertheless, it reminds us of what is central. On Christmas we worship.

7) That being said, we worship in the hope of--but not the guarantee that--our spirits will be lifted. These holidays are holy-days, and all kinds of emotions can come alongside them. Grief, acedia, joy, pleasure, satisfaction, frustration, hope. Our constant seeking to drum up a feeling of the "Christmas spirit" somewhat disregards the fact that the Spirit promises to show up wherever Christ is proclaimed and worshipped, and in ways often wider and deeper and more life-giving than even we can expect in our good-natured attempts to get in the Spirit.

All of which is posted, at least in part, to set out some things that are more worthy of a blog than a sermon. Now on to the worship and preaching itself. Jesus Christ is being born, Christ is always being born. Alleluia.

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