Friday, November 30, 2007

Some Thoughts About Advent and Christmas

What I have to say about Christmas has nothing to do with popular culture. No Santa Claus, no store bought presents, no jingle bells, or the bell ringer at the grocery store. Well, maybe him a little. I think the way it is celebrated is flat out wrong.

All the parties are held during Advent, before Christmas. We are celebrating something that hasn't happened yet. Advent is a time of patient waiting, like a pregnant woman, or a farmer waiting for something to sprout in a barren field. It is a time of introspection and looking to one's conscience, asking, am I ready?

It is a time of thinking about Mary's answer to the Angel Gabriel when she was told she would be pregnant by "the holy spirit" I'm sure she could just hear Joseph and the rest of the town say Spirit, my ass! Everyone knows how you get pregnant, and it ain't no spirit! It was a stoning offense, being pregnant by another man after engagement, or even before. So when she said, let it be done to me, she was taking a huge risk, stepping out in faith into thin air, possible death. When God asks us to do things can we say, with Mary, yes, yes,let it be done?

It is a time to think of the darkness covering the earth. To think of war and man-made famine, and social injustice of every kind. Do we realize that with the advent (coming) of Emanuel (God with us) God made man, that the divine is taking the form of a human being? That the creator of the universe has come to share our suffering and our joy, our successes and failures, loving us always? Do we realize that this infant was born into the world to tell us what God is like? What the Kingdom of God is like? Not a bunch of cute little baby angels flying about in the clouds, but a state of being, of being in love with yourself, your neighbors, and with God. That he calls us all to live this way as best we can? Did you know that Heaven starts a long time before you die, and so does Hell. Because God is outside of time, there are moments in all our lives when the kingdom of God breaks through, and we, for an instant, see what love is, what justice is, what mercy is.

The Messiah was expected to be a military liberator, like Cyrus the King of Persia , who defeated the Babylonians, and allowed the Jews to go back to Judah and rebuild the Temple. What people were looking for was someone who would lead them to victory against the Roman occupiers. Instead, they got a child born in a feed trough, who grew up poor, the son of an itinerant carpenter, who was weird growing up- running off to talk to the elders of the temple when he was just 12- and who died the most undignified and most horrifying death, one that only the worst criminals got. That is what the gifts of the Magi represent: gold for kingship, frankincense for his priesthood, and myrrh, which was used to wrap bodies in their shrouds.

The ox and ass are symbols of Osiris and Anubis, major Egyptian gods, bowing down before him. The Maji were astrologers, the scientists of the time, who came from foreign countries with different gods-who recognized that this infant was the Holy One. He came to save the whole world.

The shepherds were the most despised people- they had a bad moral reputation. That the angels announced his birth to the shepherds, and they were the first to adore him, means that he came for the lowliest of us. No one is excluded. So you ask what I think of Christmas? it is Wonderful. God is with us, is made man. The Lord of the Universe made himself so small and vulnerable just for us.

If you ask how it is celebrated, no, it is not OK. It isn't about stuff. Or making money. It is about the ultimate gift that God gave us- Himself, fully human. We should celebrate by our being gifts to others. In our family, we try to make gifts to give each other. I try to do something extra for someone else. That is a gift of love and caring. We should have parties- after Christmas day, coming together to celebrate the gift of the Christ child. That is more in the spirit of Christmas.


marigeanne said...

I read this with interest. I wish you had included more of the things that you and I have been part of trying to keep the season holy. Rember the craft fairs we would have at Newman? Getting all the children together to make gifts, making advent wreaths, helping them, the kids, and us to see the unfolding of the season amid the tinsel and cartoons. It's the simple things that keep us connected to the turning of the seasons, the changing of the moon, the litugical calendar...all that reminds us what it is to be fully human.


Anne said...

You are right, Margie. It is exactly those kinds of things that keep us fully human. It is all in the small things. And paying attention.