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Posts Tagged ‘ritual’

The time is upon us again–the annual season designated for international celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Of course, plenty of devout Christians are fond of highlighting the commercialization of the holiday, and I share at least some of their perspectives.

Other Jesus-followers elect not to recognize any religious dimensions of the holiday because they have no way of knowing (and are even highly skeptical) that December 25 was the precise date that the Savior entered human life. I can understand that position as well, for my early childhood happened in the context of that belief and practice. My family participated, as much as possible, in the commercial rituals, giving and receiving gifts and feasting on homemade delicacies; but I remember friends’ confusion when they learned that my Christian family did not have a star or an angel on our Christmas tree.

The first angel on our Christmas tree must have arrived sometime during my preteen era. It brought me simultaneous feelings of liberating enthusiasm and theological tension. (The word “theological” was not yet in my vocabulary, thanks to the pragmatic foundation of our cultural context.) I appreciated the freedom to let my soul’s excitement soar as high as, and eventually higher than, my Christmas morning hyperactivity (which still exists); but a question plagued me: How can I believe that December 25 is most likely not the actual birthday of my Lord AND at the same time celebrate the spiritual aspects of the holiday that the world recognizes as his birthday?

Eventually, I discovered that most of the thinking people in the world who have had any exposure to the Christian message do not insist that the 25th of December is literally Jesus’ birthday. I also learned to appreciate the widespread recognition of Christ, no matter the season or holiday that spurs it. Even though the Bible does not specify the date, even though December was not a likely time for shepherds to be out in the fields with their flocks, and even though we should be celebrating Jesus year-round, I am happy to join millions of other citizens of this world in our common celebration of God’s heroic and loving act of taking on human flesh and living with us to give a glimpse of divine reality and to call us to a better life in tune with that revelation.

The commercialization of the season still bothers me, as does the general materialism of our culture(s) throughout the year. When I repeatedly explore the story of Jesus, I do not see a jolly fat man devouring plates of cookies and giving gluttonous bags of toys and candy, nor do I see parents using their credit cards or family savings to lavish extravagant and unnecessary luxuries upon their demanding children whose closets, tummies, and toy chests already overflow. Instead, I see a baby born to a poor family with no bedroom. I see that baby sleeping and probably crying in a box of hay in a smelly barn. And I see the Son of God entering the world in the midst of rumors and ridicule.

The story of Jesus does not exemplify the “American dream.” He does not advance from poverty to riches. He ends up walking around his country with a small group of outcasts and without a house to call his own.

What does this story say about economic and lifestyle practices of Jesus-followers today? How can we live functionally in our culture(s) and still live up to the sacrificial calling issuing forth from the life and teachings of Christ?

How can we live in ways that celebrate Jesus throughout the year, instead of just on socially specified dates?

I do not have all the answers. I am still seeking. And along the journey, I keep celebrating. May God bless you with out-of-this-world joy both today and tomorrow, as you experience once again the birth of our journey in Christ.

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