Monday, December 24, 2012

Because nothing says "Christmas" like an emergency root canal, and stomach flu.

I have an awesome husband.  He looked after the boys all day yesterday while I hole up in the bedroom, recovering from another emergency root canal treatment, and a bout of stomach flu or food poisoning.  He did this after being awake most of the night listening to me perform in the Opera a la toilette.  Being so nauseous was a good reminder for me to think long and hard before contemplating another pregnancy in the future.  But hubs and I make such sweet children.  Hmmm.

Actually, nothing says "Christmas" like "Merry Christmas."  But am I the only one who feels a little awkward about the tendency of some folks to become rather...militaristic about saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings"?  A few years ago, at a Christmas gathering, I squirmed and bit my tongue while a youtube video was presented on a big screen featuring a band that usually plays children's music.  Here is the chorus of the song:

Why It's called Christmas, what more can I say? 
It's about the birth of Christ 
and you can't take that away. 
You can call it something else, 
but that's not what it will be. 
It's called Christmas with a capital "C." 

And a few more choice lines:

 I say you gotta say merry Christmas cuz it is! if you don't believe in it fine, but i got a flash for you, Christianity happens to be the religious heritage of my country whether you like it or not.

so if you're not Christian or you don't like it, and you don't want Christmas to be celebrated, well then God Bless You, but if you're think you're gonna stop me from sayin it because it offends you, i gotta flash for you, Put a helmet on, cuz it's my country too

Gulp.  Is this our call, as Christians, to defend the religious heritage of our country, be it America or Canada?  To insist that our neighbours of different faiths say "Merry Christmas"?

Inevitably, during this time of year, somebody posts on Facebook (forgive me if that was you) or emails the blurb erroneously attributed to Ben Stein called "Confessions for the Holidays".  You can read Stein's actual commentary and the altered version of it here, on Snopes.  His original commentary is actually a brief, interesting read about the secularization of Christmas from the perspective of a Jewish man, and a contemplation of  the acceptance of celebrity-worship in our society.  The adulterated version, however, adds several points not actually written by Stein, all of which are embarrassingly offensive.  To summarize the blurb without giving another platform to the author, whoever he or she may be, the gist is that we "reap what we sow" in regards to terrorist attacks, school shootings, murders, suicides, children who don't know right from wrong, all because we have forced God out of our institutions: our schools, and our government.  And because we aren't spanking our children enough.  The blurb ends with the usual guilt-mongering common to these type of posts (only people who really care will share, or, share this or you will grow

In the days following the Connecticut shooting, I noticed a few people on my facebook feed (forgive me again if that was you) posting their thoughts, connecting the shooting with the fact that school-sponsored prayer is no longer allowed, and that the ten commandments are no longer taught in school.  Several links started popping up to politicians and pundits who echoed these sentiments, that somehow we have shimmied God out of our institutions.  Some comments liken God to a gentleman, excusing himself where he's not wanted.  And, thusly, we "reap what we sow".  A separation of state and church somehow leads to school shootings.

I beg to differ.

Enter the Christmas story: Instead of abandoning us, God "put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood" as the Message so aptly puts it.  God has not abandoned us; he became Emmanuel, God with us.  I think it's important to note that Jesus came, not in a flash of power to take over the political and educational institutions of his day, but as a baby.  He was a Jew during Roman occupation, narrowly missed being killed as an infant by that regime, and was even rejected by his own people.  Jesus came to transform our hearts, not to legislate faith in him, whether by school-led prayer, or requiring the gas jockey to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Season's Greetings".  God is not some demure gentleman, whom we can usher out of a room.  God has never needed the government's endorsement or permission to be present.

So, let's keep saying "Merry Christmas"!  Let us seize opportunities to share why we are celebrating Christmas.  Let us be different in how we celebrate Christmas, let us wrestle with our frenzied holiday consumption in the face of world-wide poverty.   Let us keep saying "Merry Christmas", but, let us remember the humble birth of Christ, and say it with a mark of humility instead of a spirit of defensiveness and entitlement.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

I'll leave you with a link to a beautiful song on this Christmas Eve, called "Winter Snow" by Audrey Assad.  Lyrics are below, but do have a listen.  She sings this song with Chris Tomlin on his Christmas album, and it's truly lovely.

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire
With the power of heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred

But You came like a winter snow
(Yes, You did)
You were quiet
You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Oh, no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still
It was small
It was hidden

You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Falling
(Oh, yeah)
To the earth below
You came falling
From the sky in the night
To the earth below



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