Thursday, November 01, 2007

What’s So “Merry” About Christmas? — Clemons

November 1st and if you don’t believe Christmas is here you haven’t been shopping in Wal-Mart, Zellers, Canadian Tire or any other house of retail repute. And you probably don’t believe in Santa Clause, either—Grinch!

Oh, I too remember the days when Christmas décor wasn’t put up until December—at the earliest—but I guess I’m showing my age. I, of all people, shouldn’t be surprised. One thing I’ve learned as an author is that books for the Christmas season are ordered by stores in July. You gotta get the goods on the shelf early to squeeze every dollar of profit from the holidays. In today’s techno-riffic, five-hundred-dollar Christmas present, oh, what the heck, just get ‘em a gift-card and let them buy what they want, world, I wonder if anyone remembers what it’s really all about.

“Yes, of course,” you say, “It’s about that cute little baby wrapped in those snugly warm blankets with all those lowing cows, that glowing star, and those winsome shepherds.” Well, maybe. Things get a bit fuzzy in a country where it’s considered politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas” because, heaven forbid, Christmas is really “Christ’s Mass” so please say “Seasons Greetings,” lest you offend. No, that’s not a Christmas tree you see, that’s a Holiday Tree, never mind that the word “Holiday” is a derivative of “Holy Day,” and do not, please, do not plant a nativity scene in your front yard. You may get reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Imagine the nerve of those parents making those poor cows go hungry while they steal the manger for their kid?

Perhaps it’s for the best. Even in our brightest candlelit cantatas we still miss the point. That baby boy wasn’t born to be cuddly and cute. He was a sacrifice, born to die an ugly death so we might live. He would be scourged and spat upon and have His head impaled with thorns and carry a cross on his bloody back until there was no strength left in Him, and then be nailed to it and propped up naked for all the world to laugh at and mock and jeer. And all because I did a bunch of things for which I am deeply ashamed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this time of year. I love being reminded that God loved me so much, he willingly entered this world and became a man so he could pay the price for my sin and thus redeem me back to Himself. I’m reminded of the old children's story about the little boy who lovingly made a toy boat. He carved it, painted it bright blue, and fitted it with a handkerchief for a sail. Then he took it down to the river and set it on the water and let go and watched as it caught the wind, sped away, and before he knew it, was gone. He went home with tear-filled eyes knowing he might never see his much-loved creation again. A few days later he was walking downtown and saw his boat in the window of a second-hand store. Not having any money, he went out and worked every odd job he could find to earn enough to buy it back. Laying his coins on the counter he took that tiny boat from the retailer, hugged it to his chest, and said those classic words: “First I made you—then I bought you.” That’s the Christmas story.

Yes, I love Christmastime. I love singing the carols, wassailing hot cider, visiting family and friends. I love the cold that puts rouge in my cheeks, the lights and tinsel and the star sparkling on top of the tree, I even love hearing the “ho, ho, ho,” of the shopping mall Santa. But I also want to keep in mind the whole story, the reason and purpose of it all. Perhaps instead of reading the pastoral narrative penned by Luke, beautiful though it is, I need to read the one Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

To that I can say, “Merry Christmas,”—all year long.

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