I was repelled by my response to the conclusion of the great celebration known as Advent. As the waning hours of Advent drew to a close, I could not wait for the moment to arrive. It wasn’t because of Santa Claus’ impending appearance bearing gifts. Nor was I overwhelmed with spiritual fervor at an additional opportunity to greet the arrival of the Christ child. Like Milton, I had “no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain, to welcome him to this his new abode.” I was spent and I knew it. However, you know when you’ve been camping for three days and you’re aware you smell like a dead possum and it’s repellent to everyone except dead possums and you don’t really care? I wasn’t bothered at all.
I was simply tired. When yesterday came, I was glad it was over. I’d fallen twice, in the chancel, on Christmas Eve morning, my root canal still hurt, and I’m not sure anyone’s listening to me anyway. With a visible limp and from where I’d landed on my arm, it was all I could do to raise the bread during communion. Quasimodo does the Eucharist; how liturgically sound is that at “Christmas experts at the Board of Discipleship”?
It’s the kids they want to see. I know this, God knows this, and Jesus (both baby and adult) knows this. For the moment, trying to sell a skeptical world on Advent when everything says Christmas could take a break. It needed to end peacefully, like the third verse of Away in a Manger. That’s how Advent should become Christmas. To quote Frank Sinatra, it should be “Nice and Easy”.
This morning, when I went to eat breakfast, I heard a few other survivors express their gladness that “It’s over”. Here’s the bad news. Cultural Christmas is never over. The holiday fires lay dormant for a few months until we need them to burn bright again. Christmas takes a pause. A few people say, “Why can’t we celebrate Christmas each day?”
No one, even the most devout “Merry Christmas” wishers want Christmas to be every day. Celebrating Christmas year round means being a Christian 365 days a year. I’ve yet to see people who are willing to give church that kind of emphasis eleven months a year, the way they say claim to between mid November and late December. In truth, celebrating Christmas everyday would be a hassle and inconvenience to most people. Their lives and priorities would change in ways most are unwilling to consider altering. That’s the way functional atheism works.
For most people, God is functionally dead and irrelevant to their lives. Until the societal pressure caused by the holidays forces them to confront ancient beliefs which others may still hold. Why sit for nine innings (especially if you hate baseball or aren’t fond of the coach/team) when you can come in for the bottom of the ninth and enjoy the game winning home run?
Most of the western world gives little thought to what Christians call Christmas and whether it’s Merry, Happy, Holy, or not. Christmas for all its commercial and marketing appeal is really just a way station for overfeeding and starching up, so we can drink harder, faster, and longer on the Wise Man highway to cultural debauchery called New Year’s Eve. And like it or not, New Year’s Eve is the one holiday we have no trouble mass producing and keeping alive in bars, hotels, and people’s hearts all year long.
New Year’s Eve won the War on Christmas, one shot at a time.
I will be glad when it’s all over.
Richard Lowell Bryant