A Very Merry Pagan Christmas

hssanta.gifThis Sunday we explored the theme of celebration. We asked the question, “Who is celebrating Christmas?” As people shared their stories, the answer was surprising…

As people began to see the centrality and meaning of the incarnation for Christmas, their family’s overblown celebration of consumerism, tacky decorations and Santa Claus seemed superficial and even oppressive. But as they went deeper, they realized that even their secular family experienced grace and mercy during Christmas. Things that seem cheesy and idealistic any other time of year, like peace, love, mercy and grace, suddenly seem possible at Christmas time.

Many pundits and Christians turn the holidays into a competition between the secular, consumer holiday and the religious celebration of the incarnation. We hear slogans like “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” So much energy is expended trying to take back Christmas, as if it’s a holiday that we somehow possess as Christians.

What if God is at work in the midst of the most secular and consumerist versions of Christmas?

Just watch some of those classic Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street that has nothing to do with Jesus. Listen for God in the midst of those stories and you will be surprised. They are stories of faith, belief, love, mercy and kindness. There is often the theme of moving beyond our rationality to embrace the mystery of believing in things that we can’t see or that don’t make sense.

It’s true that the holidays are a rough time for a lot of people. This time of year brings up a lot of family and relational issues that we suppress the rest of the year. If we have eyes to see, I think it also makes space for redemption, reconciliation and grace. Are we open to God at work, even if Jesus is never mentioned or acknowledged as the “reason”?

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