Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christ's Birth 2005

We all know Christmas is about much MORE than the birth of Jesus Christ on earth approximately 2,000 years ago, give or take a solstice. As if it needed to be! Primarily it seems to be about retailers achieving their year-end sales goals. Since one of my previous professional incarnations was advertising for a retail chain, I can attest to the economic worship of what is reverently known as "The Fourth Quarter." But Christmas is also an opportunity for the socially aggressive to insist that their form of Christmas greeting is preferred to any other kind. That is, "Merry Christmas" is superior to "Happy Holidays," and we'll boycott your butt if you ban the former in favor of the latter. For the religiously inclined, why not skip gift-buying altogether and just focus on the true meaning of Christmas? Then you don't have to worry about which stores to avoid! It isn't really necessary, though. If you want to annoy people you can just pronounce it "Happy HOLY-Days." That's where the word came from, after all. Another option is to shout gleefully, "Mary, Queen of Scots!" in a British accent. This will definitely make people wonder what is wrong with you. At our house, along with getting ready for the Birth of Christ, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Believe it or not, that special actually MENTIONS the birth of Christ and quotes Scripture! Today that seems wildly subversive. It's also worth noting that Christmas was already completely commercialized at that point. I think we need to complain about much more than the commercialization of Christmas. That's a retailing fact of life, but far from the only feature making Christmas something other than perhaps it was originally intended. How about the Electrification of Christmas? It's apparent from a cursory trip in residential areas that the Worship of the Watt goes on unabated, with glowing bulbs, icicles, snow globes, reindeer, angels, manger scenes, disco balls, cartoon characters ad infinitum. (Personal note: And I love looking at it! Give me more!) Or, the Hallmarkification of Christmas. (Guilty here, too.) Between packages and cards it's possible to spend more of your Christmas season in the post office than in Church! But I love getting the photo cards and newsletters that update us on people we don't see nearly often enough. All the friends and family get them except my one friend who "hates newsletters" because they are so impersonal. Well I always write a personal note on the card in addtion to sending the newsletter. I actually used to send out a page or two long-hand letter until carpal tunnel set in. So after that I decided the newsletter was the only way to go. I just try to make it interesting enough that if it's the only thing you had to read in the car you wouldn't be totally bored. How about the Calorification of Christmas? This isn't hard to do in any case, but when you've acquired an Italian mother-in-law, as I did seven years ago, things get REALLY out of hand! Pasta...fish...meatballs....side dishes....COOKIES. Forget those stupid tips on how not to pack on the pounds over the holidays. It's impossible. And realistically, why should we turn any of this fantastic food down? Can we talk about the Jingleization of Christmas? Those stores and radio stations that start playing tunes with bells as soon as the Thanksgiving wishbone is parted? Think about this. Six weeks of Christmas music. In a 52-week year, that is more than 10 percent of the total year spent listening to Bruce Springsteen giggle "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." It is more than a month of Jose Feliciano crooning "Feliz Navidad." It is like listening to "The Little Drummer Boy" as a penance for the duration of Lent. On the other hand, there isn't much about modern music that I like, so I guess I'm not really complaining. Just pointing it out! What should we call the things we watch during this season? The BoobTubopoly of Christmas? Since we have a 4- and 6-year-old naturally we are revisiting the traditional kids' specials such as Charlie Brown, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mickey's Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and the Little Drummer Boy. And adult fare such as A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone (okay, a movie, but for kids), Miracle on 34th St., Holiday Inn, and (my personal favorite) The Homecoming, which introduced us to Earl Hamner's Walton family. It is amazing with all these "izations" (beyond just commercialization) that we have time to notice Jesus at all! I do try, and it comes more to the fore when you have to constantly remind your kids WHY we are doing all this stuff. Because Jesus wants us to! On a commercial note, I really don't need anything except socks. I KNOW the Christmas season is about more than me keeping my feet warm. It is about the presence of Jesus in our lives. I wonder if the emphasis on that in December somehow gives us a pass on realizing it every other month of the year. That is going to be my project for 2006. Getting the Jingle out of Jesus so he can show up at the breakfast table every morning, supervise my driving throughout the day, and help us wrap things up at night. Welcome, Jesus, into our lives and our hearts!

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