I don't know about you, but I have always preferred to experience my holidays in separate seasons. In this regard, I like to think of holidays as individualized events - each occupying a separate month, silo, or parking spot. So, Halloween should be Halloween, and Thanksgiving should be Thanksgiving, Veterans Day should be about Veterans, and Birthdays should be Birthdays. Because this is the case, I've never been a fan of fireworks in December, Valentine Cards in July, turkey in January, or dress up parties - any time of the year. And, my general aversion to holiday "cross-pollinization" would also include a dislike of Christmas sermons with overt references to the crucifixion of Christ or Easter sermons that reference Mary's immaculate conception (call me rigid:-). As the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us; "There is a time for everything, a season for everything under heaven..."
All of this said, my mind was verily changed, just this past week, after the following episode...
On Saturday, I was attending our city's annual Christmas extravaganza; "Christmas on Vine Street." As usual, there were masses of children, hundreds of houses all decked out in Christmas glory, Christmas carols, sleigh rides, hot chocolate and the usual holiday frenzy. As Star and I and Haley were making our way down the street, marveling at the lights and the grandeur of it all, Star accidentally ran Haley's stroller (ever so slightly), into the leg of an erstwhile Christmas Caroler. It was actually more of a love tap than a running into... The man was wearing a green scarf, and a red had, and he had sleigh bells in his hand. Moments before our encounter, he had been singing a jolly tune (Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls). Wow his face was beet red with lividity and anger. "This is no place for a child's stroller!!!!" he boomed. "Oh really?" I wanted to say. "I had always thought that Christmas was first begun by a young lad who occupied a stroller (manger)." How was it that this man's outer joy was so much in disparity with his inner sense of joy.
Without going on about the histrionics of the whole episode, I have come to the basic conclusion that the man's problem was that he was suffering from a case of too much manger and not enough cross.
One of the very difficult things about Christmas is the perpetual aspirationalism of the entire holiday. Christmas aspires to be so much: a time of family wholeness, a place for individual bliss, a moment of community togetherness, a chance for church connectedness. Every year, Christmas aspires to be all of these things (and so much more). Sadly, it rarely achieves any of them. In a way, Christmas is the great set-up. It beckons us every year with an invocation to hope for all things, and then it often leaves us in January with a sense of the achievement of none of these things. Even back in the day, the manger was all that the world hoped for - but the cross ended up being all that the world really needed.
The Manger needs The Cross.
So, from now on, I am changing my tune. Holidays should be celebrated in separate seasons, but the Manger should always include a smattering of the Cross.
All for Now,