Monday, December 27, 2010

Free the Humbugs!

I’m glad the ghost of Christmas is past.

Not because I’m a Scrooge, though. Actually, I'm glad it's past because the so-called spirit of Christmas is something we’re supposed to have year round. My designation of the season as humbuggery is turned more towards the artificiality of the season, which manifests itself in many ways.
As an INTJ personality, I don’t tend to put much focus on holidays in the first place. But the Christmas season irritates me in more ways than one even without that.

The designation of the date as Jesus’ birthday is an artificiality. I frequently defend against “pagan copycat” claims by pointing out that Mithra, Dionysus, etc being born on 12/25, even if true, means little since there is no evidence Jesus was born on that date. The church designated this as the date in order to compete (rightly) with pagan festivities, to one-up them as it were. These days there’s no competition for 12/25, so the purpose of the artificial designation has passed.

Relatedly, our manger scenes are an artificiality. We put together shepherds and magi, worshipping that baby Jesus at the same time, but their visits were historically at least two years apart.

Economically, the season is an artificiality. Christmas shopping is what allows our merchants to turn a profit (“Black Friday”). It is somehow disturbing to consider that without Christmas, most merchants would be out of business by the end of the year, and that the success of our economy is reliant upon an artificiality, a designated day when a prescribed ritual of gift-giving is followed. Why not be givers to one another throughout the year? (My beloved Mrs H fits this model well; a week seldom passes without her wanting to buy something for someone, for no other purpose than to make them smile.)

Following the artificial designation, of course, our entertainments toe the line with media productions (TV, radio, etc) with Christmas themes. These start soon after Thanksgiving (say, 2 seconds after?) and artificially graft us into the mood to follow the economic line above.

It doesn’t help that the entertainment is generally no less vapid than at other times of the year. If I had an option to banish one Christmas song from the radio airwaves, it would be that nauseating ditty by NewSong, “The Christmas Shoes,” with its sentimentality of convenience, and its Joel Osteen “God will find you a parking space” theology:

I knew that God had sent that little boy

To remind me just what Christmas is all about.

Hum. So God is in the business of being a post-it note to compensate for your moral failures? You needed this as a reminder, when as a disciple you should have known “what Christmas is all about” long before this? And He was so busy with this that He forgot to feed the hungry and stuff like that? Yep. God the micromanager again.

One of these days, I’ll have to write a parody of this song in which, the day after Christmas, the singer turns on the news to discover that the “little boy” was actually an adult criminal named Joe “Baby Face” Sheen, who later went out to sell those shoes to an undercover narc, hoping to buy some crack cocaine with the profits.

It’s tempting. You don’t know HOW tempting.

What else? There’s a social artificiality to the season, in which we suddenly decide to cram our schedules full of visits to family who we should have been keeping in contact with all year long. Practically speaking, what this means is that much other activity comes to a standstill all at the same time. For example, I frequently can’t get certain ministry business done all through December because too many people are on vacation at one time, or otherwise occupied with Christmas engagements.

I only wish the need for apologetics took a break too, but unfortunately, many of my ideological opponents take this time to get busy as well – with stuff like the “Celebrate Reason” campaign, and even the mystical sorts crawling out of the woodwork with the old “Jesus is a copy of Mithra” type nonsense.

By the way, if you want to know how the Holdings spent Christmas – we took a little trip to North Florida to see the state’s tallest waterfall. All 73 feet of it – though it cheats a lot because it goes into a sinkhole. A nice walk and a picnic at a state park, with temps in the 50s and a drizzle that lent an unearthly beauty to the scene. Much more enjoyable than some artificial setting with a tree and presents, if you ask me. And we had Chinese food for dinner, which is something I have always wanted to do on Christmas. Just to do it. And, just to defy the artificial demands of the season that turkey and dressing must make it to the table or you’re a stinkin’ pagan.

Anyway, like I said, I’m glad it’s all over now. Sanity will slowly return to our surroundings; the Christmas music will disappear from the radio; the decorations will go down, and we can all get back to what we should be doing as disciples – observing “what Christmas is all about” all year round.

The fact that some of us need to be “reminded” with artificialities is a sad commentary.

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