Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Faith Works 7-30

Faith Works 7-30-11

Jeff Gill


Now is the acceptable time




Less than 150 days away.


No one will thank me for pointing this out, I know.


Christmas is less than 150 days ahead, and every so often I like to mention that in July or so, because if you're going to get a grip on the ears of this rough beast and turn it, like the young boy riding the tiger, you need to start now.


If you are perfectly content with how you and your household celebrate Christmas, in décor or gifts or traditions, you may feel free to skip ahead to the ads or the Sports section, and congratulations. . . I think.


For many, there's a growing discontent through November and December, sometimes erupting earlier in September when the first decorations show up in stores. We don't quite like how we're celebrating the occasion, not just in "the culture" (whatever that is) or at church, but in our own lives: the area we should be able to best control, and yet end up feeling most out of control there, at home.


July & August, pastors and church leaders know, is when the mold is carved, when the ingredients are mixed, when all but the final coat of paint is applied. Cantata music is picked and ordered, pageant scripts are considered, costume parts and craft elements are hunted down like a nimrod looking for his wild boar in the woods for the wassail feast.


In a more inobtrusive way, we're doing that as we start to idly think, while browsing catalogs or strolling past storefronts, "Hey, I'll bet Millie would like that for Christmas." And so the rut begins to be worn.


Before the rut goes so deep the wagon can't turn, how do you get control of the applecart? Tomorrow I get the chance to preach on this, at least a bit, at Centenary UMC in Granville (8, 9:20, & 11, thanks for asking), and I have some suggestions that are relatively painless and potentially productive. You don't have to swear off all gifts, all decorations, every party, just to get your seasonal celebration back on track.


There's the ever-popular "remember that Jesus is the reason for the season," but there's two problems with that approach to redeeming Christmas cheer. One is, it doesn't work very well. Years of putting that slogan on bumper stickers and bookmarks make it clear that it works for those for whom it already works, and just puts a cherry top of guilt on the whole teetering pile of non-Jesus-y Christmas stuff. Or to put it another way, if it was going to work, we'd see it by now.


The other problem with "Jesus – the reason for the season" is that, as Christians (I'm talking to us'ns, now), we know that Jesus is the reason for every season, and should be celebrated as having entered our world and our lowly estate on every day. Lots of Christmas season sermons remind us of exactly that; Jesus was born that we might live, and that's gift, pure and simple.


So why celebrate Christmas at all? Is making it "a day" let alone "a season" actually a problem in and of itself? It can be, but not necessarily. Our Puritan forebearers suspected it was going to end up like this, and if you read the early Licking County histories (before the return of Civil War veterans with those wacky trees they wanted to put in the parlor, like the fellows in Siegel's regiment had in their camp) – there were basically no Dec. 25 celebrations to speak of here in the early 1800's, other than among German Catholics, and even that was low key.


Most of what we call Christmas celebration is less Christian than it is a cultural acknowledgement that winter is hard, and long dark nights are depressing, and we need some feasting and lights and gift-giving just to get through it. When you start to separate out the purely cultural from the faithful, it gets a bit easier to figure out what you must do from what you want to do . . . and then sort out what you have to do, or if you do a'tall.


Sort it out from your angle, but start sorting now: what kind of Christmas do you want those around you to remember in years to come? Making memories is a perfectly reasonable frame to put around your own picture of that baby in his manger.


Just don't let the frame overwhelm the portrait you're putting on display for others to see. If they only see the frame, it's the wrong choice!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your Christmas memory at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment