This year, I’ve been newly struck by the reality that keeping Christ in Christmas is far more complex than merely wishing every cashier and barista you interact with a “Merry Christmas,” and secretly rejoicing that you’ve managed to assert Christ’s place as the “reason for the season” in such an explicit way.
As I was reflecting the other day I was struck by this realization: could it be that by trying to keep “Christ” at the center of our holidays, we’re actually misplacing Him altogether?
Could it be that when we’re trying to wrestle Jesus into place in that Nativity scene or on that holiday card that He’s actually evading our grasp – instead choosing to be in all the places He needs to be?
The thing is that Christ is WITH us and WITH our world – all day and every day already. He’s WITH the lonely in seniors’ residences and girls’ homes – people who aren’t surrounded by loved ones. He’s WITH the hungry on our streets and WITH the ill in hospitals. He’s WITH us when we’re discouraged by our loved ones and WITH us when we desperately need peace. His very name is God WITH us as the prophet Isaiah had foretold: “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14).
When we try so hard to keep Him in his manger bed, I wonder whether He’s actually wandering about, visiting the stranger, feeding the hungry, comforting the lonely – even walking right next to us whispering words of love and comfort over our own bitter and hard hearts.
When we realise this about Jesus – that He’s with us, and that He’s calling us to follow Him – I think that that’s when we “keep the Christ in Christmas.” When we’re generous even when it hurts, when we’re radically hospitable, when we decide to say hello to someone even when it’s going to be awkward, or look someone in the eye when we pass them in the street and offer a smile, when we relax our grip on control and appearances – when we decide to trust that Christ’s arrival as a baby has changed everything, launching us even deeper into the reality that He is LORD – we can go about in tune with the good news that He is already at work.
In other words, when we look more and more like the Christ we know to be at work in our world already and love Him ever more dearly, that’s when we “keep” the Christ in Christmas.
Just some thoughts on a rather wintry Quebec night.
I’ve heard several complaints of lack of Christmas tunes this year and so I thought NO MORE! There are too many beautiful (+ occasionally free!) albums out there to put on while you bake, visit with friends, or a generally merry.
Relevant Magazine Christmas albums – various artists
These are beautiful mixes and just creative and fun and lovely. And did I mention FREE!?
These ones go without saying but Sufjan is just hilarious and fun. There are 40+ songs on the first album and over 50 on the second – tunes where he is just obviously having a blast. Some of the songs may need to be skipped if you have company – I’m A Christmas Unicorn – for one?! But in general, fun, folksy and creative, as all things produced by an Enneagram 4 (which my husband also is) should be.
Sometimes it’s hit or miss but you can find all kinds of gems on Noisetrade for (once again) FREE through their site, which “helps artists and labels meaningfully connect with fans through the exchange of free music for email addresses and postal codes.” You can find stuff all year round, but searching for “Christmas” will yield all kinds of treasure for you this Christmas season. I have loved the stuff I found from Sleeping at Last, The Oh Hellos, and Future of Forestry.
Enjoy some pics of our Christmas tree this year and rocking around your own Christmas tree to some of these lovely tunes!
Wishing I had read this pre-Advent, but not too late, I guess.
Coming to grips with death is one of the first steps in a truly revolutionary social praxis. We must be broken of our denial that there is something terribly wrong and that, moreover, we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, complicit in it. I see this need first hand as someone located, simultaneously,in a liberal, wealthy, protestant seminary and in the struggle for migrant justice in a town where over seventy people were deported in four months this past summer under a program instituted by a democratic president. I often feel this disconnect in a seminary culture that glories in its own liberalism while turning a blind eye to the racist, classist structures that are integral to the university it is a part of and to the levels of violence perpetrated by the state and local governments. I recently noted to a friend that, “sometimes I want to take these people by the shoulders, shake them as hard as I can and say, ‘don’t you get how f-ing evil this stuff you’re talking about is?’”
Advent might not be a season to take our friends by the shoulders and shake them as hard as we can (something more reminiscent of the cleansing of the temple), but it is a season to name “how f-ing evil this stuff is.” It is a season to name and lament that which the Empire encourages us to ignore. It is indeed a season for those of us who are to depressed for Christmas, as well as those who are too angry, too tired, too alienated or just plain fed up. It is a season to awaken to the fact that we live in the midst of death so that we may pray earnestly for the coming of the Lord of Life.
It is only in the midst of this naming of our pain, of the darkness that shrouds our world, that we can truly know what it is to hope. “Hope,” notes Henry Stringfellow, “is known only in the midst of coping with death. Any so called hope is delusory and false without or apart from the confrontation with the power of death.”