Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Taking sides in the War on Christmas!!

I've always loved the "War of the Roses"... it always sounded so floral... and it must have smelled great!

I loved the "War of the Worlds", the Mercury Theatre featuring Orson Wells... awesome!

I've marveled at the  "War on Drugs" for as long as I can remember - criminalizing Marijuana while the LCBO promotes Alcohol consumption as a viable and attractive "Life Style".  

And of course, there’s a war on Christmas.
Not on Christmas Cake - which would make sense - but actually on Christmas.

I’ve heard about it on TV.

I’ve read about in the newspapers.

I’ve heard people muttering about it as they walk out of shops where clerks have responded to “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”
For goodness sake, it’s Merry Christmas… this is Canada you know!

I’ve not really given it much thought over the past few years… since the war was declared.

It doesn’t feel like a real war to me. There are enough real wars around for me to know the difference.

There are enough problems in this world that need my attention more urgently than a “war” of Christmas…
Nobody is taking my faith away by insisting on Seasonal or Holiday Concerts at the school.  Frankly, I think it’s a bigger concern that most schools no longer have full music programs. (Perhaps a casualty of the "War on Drugs" - after all you know what musicians are like... and who knows what was happening to all those Tuba Mouthpieces.)

However… as I am wont to do… I’ve changed my mind.  (so proud that I have one to change).

It might be a sign of my age.

BUT I am now taking sides in the war on Christmas.

I will no longer sit idly by as people choose to say “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas”
I will not grin and bear it…

I will insist on it!

Seriously… I much prefer Happy Holidays… in fact, anything that includes the word Holiday… over Christmas.

Because, at least Holiday… comes from “Holy” day.
A day that is Holy.

What does it mean when something is holy?
It is sacred… or connected to the Divine… to God.  When you make something holy or sacred, you connect it to God.   Happy Holidays:  “May you have a time when you are connected to the Divine”
I’ll take that.

I’ll take that over “Merry Christmas” anytime… 
Not because of an inferior etymology, but because we have come put such an emphasis on “Merry” over Christmas and Christmas has become defined as a time of gift giving.   What we mean when we say “Merry Christmas” is “I hope that you get really good gifts and that the gifts that you give are well received…  or at least easily returned.”

I suppose that there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself… gifts, I mean.  I like gifts (you don’t have to be shy about giving them to me… I receive them shamelessly.)   Gifts are great…  We’ve come to refer to Jesus as God’s gift to us… the most important of all the Christmas Gifts…  you see, it is hard to separate the idea of Christmas from gift giving.  Just as it’s hard for us to separate Hallowe’en from Trick or Treating, Valentine’s Day from Chocolate or Election Day from wailing and the gnashing of teeth. 

Merry Gift Giving.
It’s nice… but is it enough?

Christians in Syria… in Egpyt… people who have recently experience death in their family…. do you think that “Merry Christmas” is going to cut it this year?  Is there a gift that anyone can give that will make them Merry?

Is making Merry, really the goal of Christmas?
‘Cause if it is… I’m afraid that we’re going to leave a lot of people out.  For a lot of folks, for whom Merry is simply not on the agenda.

Merry… it is such a nice word. It’s so… well, Merry.  It speaks of a condition that is joyous and care-free…  but that’s not a realistic expectation for many at this time of year - should we leave them out?

The first Christmas without that person who brought colour and shape to your life… hard to find Merry.

The Christmas where you toss and turn at night not sure how you’re going to cover the bills and wondering  if the new year will provide work enough to get through till next December… hard to be care free.

The Christmas that you know is going to be your last.

The first Christmas surrounded by “old people” and the occasional family visit… Merry?

Christmas on the other side of the world… staying in touch by skype… it feels so different and so “alone”… Care free? Merry?

Those Christmas’s are all around us.  There are lots of us who will engage and participate in Christmas, but Merry is not going to happen.  Because there aren’t gifts enough in the world to get us there.

AND there are those who, knowing that there aren’t gifts enough in the world to get to Merry Christmas… will simply not engage or participate… because it just deepens the isolation and highlights the hurt.
 (WOW, that was cheery!)

But there is more to Christmas.
There is that part that we call “Holy".

Holy is when God is present… through our reaching out to the Divine or the Divine reaching out to us… Holy is a time or place where humanity and the other… the Divine… God… co-mingle.
And isn’t that what we have said for centuries about Jesus?   That he is fully divine and also fully human… a contradiction, to be sure, but also a mystical description of “Holy”.

Our Christmas Story assures us that Holy is not a condition reserved for great temples or rarified places… a stable is as holy as the Vatican… shepherds are as close to God as the highest of high priests…God is as present in a barn as a marble sanctuary…as present with those away from home, as those who are home…  as present among the poor as the rich… as present with those that society would shame as with those that society would idolize… as present in the face of tragedy and death as in an oasis of peace and joy.

Remember, in our story Mary is unmarried and pregnant…away from home;  they have no place to stay… those who recognize the presence of God in their child are shepherds and foreigners… this presence of God is revealed in a time of political oppression and the violent deaths of children..   In all of that – God is still present.  

You may not be merry any time soon… but you may smile… and you may have peace.  That is the message of Christmas, far beyond “Merry”.

You may find yourself without a mountain of presents… or even enough food… but together we can and will create a time when there is food on your table.  That is the promise of Christmas, far beyond “Merry”.

You may find yourself missing a part of yourself in an absent loved one… but you are not alone.
You may find yourself struggling with darkness… but there is light.
Because God is present… in all aspects of our lives… not just the “Merry” times…

None of us excluded from this love that teaches us to look beyond “Merry Christmas” to a “Holy Day” or even “Holy” Days, that can lead to a sense of God’s presence every day,  because if it can happen in a manger in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, it can happen in your life today.  That’s Christmas… with all due respect to Santa and our decorations… there is so much more.

So, if I may combine  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays…   
(Peaceable Compromise IS my middle name) 
  allow me to wish you a “Holy Christmas” this year… and may every day be a Holy day for you… a day when you are keenly aware that nothing separates you from the presence and the love of the Holy Other, whatever name or experience you may most cherish.

Holy Christmas!   

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