Here we go again. Even before the Thanksgiving turkey made it through the leftover cycle, the now-annual, national Christmas squabble began.
Neighbors in a stew over a manger scene in somebody else's front yard; call the ACLU. A store won't call their evergreens Christmas trees; it makes the evening news. A company's catalog says "holiday" instead of "Christmas"; a boycott is announced. Somebody get out the volume of Supreme Court rulings labeled, "Christmas," so we'll know which way the Christmas winds of justice are blowing this year; it's all capricious nonsense. This bickering is downright sacrilegious.
Time to plan the little tykes' holiday pageant; Santa is fine but Jesus is banned. Santa brings sugar-laden candy; call the AMA. Now that you mention it, he's too fat; call Jenny Craig. Put the reindeer on hold and call the PETA; animals are people too. Santa says "ho"; cover the children's little ears. Please, does it get any sillier than this?
We're not really celebrating Christmas on the right day. Jesus wasn't born in the winter. It's mostly recycled pagan ritual anyway. They didn't even celebrate Jesus' birth until a couple of centuries after. The Church just co-opted a bunch of Roman stuff and made it conform to Christianity. Who really cares? A symbolic feast is a symbolic feast is a symbolic feast.
Christmas is too commercialized. It's not commercialized in the right way. Don't dare misappropriate our holy day for ghastly profits. Buy, buy, buy or the retailers and their families will suffer. How dare they put a Coca Cola in Santa's hand? What, you prefer Pepsi?
My teacher said, "Merry Christmas"; I'm scarred for life. No red and green this year; it says "Christmas" loud and clear. No, it's really a holdover from a way, way, way bygone year. Just another pagan thing, you know. Hang a wreath; don't hang a wreath. Only a live evergreen will do. Artificial trees are more ecological. Get some mistletoe and kiss yourself.
Good gracious, who cares!
I've had it up to my neck with the squabbling, the nit-picking, the analyzing and every other little bit of scrooging and religiosity. None of this bickering comes across to me as even coming close to the joy-to-the-world Christmas that I believe God intends it to be.
I take my Catholic faith very seriously; it defines my life. But I've never been a form-over-substance person, so I can't get all worked up over what appear to be insignificant details. And it seems to me that when we take our eyes off Christmas' meaning and get caught up in the details instead, we hurt God much more than any societal slight ever could.
I think it just might be time we get down to brass tacks on the matter and ask ourselves simply:
Whose Christmas is it anyway?
Christmas, as defined by the Church, is supposed to celebrate God's supreme gift to mankind for all generations, past, present and future. As Christians, we believe that Jesus, born in Bethlehem in the land of Judea, is the Messiah, foretold by the prophets.
And we believe, according to our sacred Scripture, that when he was born, an angel appeared to the shepherds guarding their flocks in the fields, and proclaimed: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest! On earth peace, good will toward men."
Luke 2:10-14 (New American Bible)
Just how we got from that idyllic scene of glory, peace, good will, good news and joy for all, to the current state of squabbling over every little detail, is a 2,000 year up, down, right, left, east, west and every which way story. But the bottom line is that Christmas belongs to God.
His idea. His Son. His angels. His manger. His gift.
Truth be told, if God were anything at all like Santa Claus, and he had asked us humans first what we wanted, most humans would probably have opted for a gift quite different than the babe in the manger who was supposed to hold the promise of internal soul-peace that surpasses understanding.
I don't intend to give up a minute of that peace this Christmas paying any attention whatsoever to a single squabble. Everywhere I go, I'm going to share Christmas in a smile with everyone I encounter.
As for my husband, me and our house, we will shut the door tight this year against the cacophony of Christmas squabbling, and seek the peace of Christ in our own way.
We'll hang the wreath on the door and not worry over whether a pagan ever did the same to honor some other made-up god with a wacky name. We'll don the tree with the all-white lights, because to us, they most resemble the star of Bethlehem, and as we gaze magically upon them in our darkened living room by the fire, we will also be reminded that we know Jesus as the light of the world. We'll hang our ornaments one by one, old and new, and talk about the year our little ones pulled the tree over and broke every single breakable object in sight. We'll remember that Santa, to us, has always represented the spirit of sacrificial giving, and we'll try to play the merry ole fat guy for each other. We'll put up the dozen golden angels over the mantle, and spread our collection of crèches all over the house. We'll spike our eggnog, roast our turkey, and enjoy our friends, both Christian and non-Christian alike.
We'll rejoice in the freedom to worship our God in joy and song and dance, not only in sacred liturgy. We'll try to rekindle warmth with our neighbors and look for any who might be alone or neglected. We'll buy gifts for the children of strangers just for the happiness of the smiles we won't even see.
We'll stay up late for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and as our hearts are lifted to the heights of heaven on the majestic chords of the Gloria, we'll imagine that we were there on that starlit night, and heard the angels sing. And we'll know - yes, we'll know - that nothing else matters one little bit.
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight."