Monday, December 04, 2006

Presbyterians Today: Taking back Christmas

Joan Gray, Moderator of the 217th General Assembly writes in the "Inside the PCUSA" column of Presbyterians Today an article titled Taking Back Christmas:

"Instead of a holiday season during which much is forgotten, Christians should remember why Jesus was born.

Christmas as it is generally practiced in our culture is an exercise in forgetting. From the week after Halloween until the stores close on December 24, the atmosphere around us is one of forgetting the unpleasant realities of life. We forget that credit card bills will have to be paid. We forget that everything that we eat will show up on the scales. We forget that most people we know have many things, but we buy them more because it’s Christmas.

In order to induce this state of forgetfulness we eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, party too much. Christmas—as it is generally celebrated by our culture and by the overwhelming majority of Christians—must make the angels weep.

Christmas is about the transformation of our world into the world God wants it to be. It is about our transformation into the beloved community. It is about God’s selfless love poured out on a world desperately in need of a savior. Somebody please tell me what this has to do with parents fighting to purchase the latest toy fad? ..."

The column, Inside the PCUSA, is a space for Presbyterian leaders to speak to the denomination on matters that they feel important. December's column is by the General Assembly Moderator, Joan Gray, and deals with an issue that has long plagued Christians -- the co-opting of the meaning of Christmas by external forces as well as the way Christians respond to this by acquiescing in how the world around them views Christmas.

It's hard. I personally complain every year about how the hoopla surrounding Christmas has become nothing more than additional stress in an already stressful life. I deal with this in my own ineffective way by refusing to play Christmas music until AFTER Thanksgiving (well, not exactly -- one of my favorite musical works is the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach, and I play it just about any time I want to, but that's about it). But I have to admit I do little else to reclaim Christmas.

Joan Gray has some good suggestions for reclaiming Christmas in its full meaning -- ones that would be good to keep in mind this season.

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