Christmas is fast approaching. Usually this means I'm gearing up for the end of the semester; I do believe I will enjoy this first exam-free December. Since the whole Advent planning thing is new, I haven't had time to develop Advent anxiety yet. But the dread is descending nonetheless.
Little irritates me more than secular American Christmas. Oh wait, there is something: when Christian churches buy into secular American Christmas. Last year I read an article in the paper about a conservative religious movement to boycott stores that opted to go PC and say, "Happy Holidays" instead of the old standby, "Merry Christmas." So... we want people to celebrate the incarnation of Christ by heaping on more credit card debt? We want to consecrate consumerism as the way to anticipate Christmas, rather than resist the mall and return to the simple practice of waiting for Jesus by celebrating and practicing the Peace, Joy, Hope, and Love that his Advent will unleash?
I know, I know. It's not about consumerism, it's about giving. Practicing generosity. And I do it too; I rip my hair out trying to find the perfect gifts for my friends and family members. But can we at least recognize that the recipients of our frenzied December generosity include Wal-Mart, Target, MBNA, and the Gap as much as they include our Pa's and Ma's and BFF's? I'm not adverse to giving. I love giving. And I love getting stuff as much as the next girl. I love the new books and the nice socks. I already love the Yoga mat I've requested from Ben. But my tolerance for celebrating Christmas by consecrating capitalism has officially bottomed out.
It's not just the consumerism that cracks my candy canes. How have Christians allowed the birth of Jesus to be hijacked so fully by cartoon characters? However have Joseph and Mary and the Angels and Shepherds been usurped by Frosty and Rudolph and Santa Claus? And fear not; this is not some tirade on how the city hall should reinstate the creche. Far from it. Whenever religion gets cozy with the civil sphere, the result is invariably a watered-down remnant of holy mystery. Civil religion is necessarily generic; there isn't even a trace of the scandal of the gospel hidden within the creeds of civil religion such as "In God We Trust" and "One nation, under God." It's all posturing to maintain the shreds of Christendom - that lovely memory of when popes crowned Kings and people were forced to convert or die. The intoxication of power and comfort. Christendom doesn't look a thing like the way of Christ, in which persons were instructed not to kill for him but to die for him.
The Grinch didn't steal Christmas. Constantine stole Christmas when he transformed Christianity from something that could get you killed to something that could get you into public office.
I apologize if my heated soliloquy melted your snowman. I fully recognize that this is grumpy naysaying as much as it is a passionate longing for a genuine celebration of the incarnation of Christ. The challenge is to transform my frustration and resistance into a positive movement, an affirmation of the power of Christ instead of a denunciation of the evil of the secular takeover. When I figure out how to do that, I'll get back to you.