It's here. It's been here for a while already. The True Value hardware store I frequent, mainly because it has a selection of fasteners I have never found on the shelf anywhere else in my life, had its Christmas lights and displays out in early October.
Yes, there's a life-size Santa Claus seated in a recliner. His motorized head scans slowly left and right. I say words to him each time I pass. I won't print them.
Every year as we enter this part of our culture--and modern Christmas is really about commercial culture, not about Christ--I encounter those rare individuals who seem to thrive on it. I'm always amazed by them and wonder, "If this didn't exist (tinsely decorations, advertising, etc.), would our lives be joyless? Or would we in fact discover a lasting source of 'Joy To The World'?"
Our modern celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem does not coincide with the date of his birth. Long ago it got plopped onto a pagan festival of the winter solstice, which by definition is very different in the Northern Hemisphere from what's going on in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow and reindeer? Not in Australia, Argentina, Namibia.
Maybe we should lift up the layers of tradition to look at what lies beneath. So here's a challenge. Read the Christmas story in the Gospel According to Mark. Read it and meditate on it this week. Then get back to me. As you meditate, here's a little Northern Hemisphere poem for the season:
A Time Between
Christmas is a time between
It's not yet the New Year, nor really the old
It's pre-income tax, it's post-Halloween
It's long before springtime, it's winter, it's cold.
Christmas is a time for joy. And peace. And love.
We save these all for one brief day
For the time between designed to remove
The burden of failure, of losing our way.
"Give love for Christmas this year!"
by the sign in the store I am told.
How much it will cost, how long it will wear?
Am I too late? Am I too old?
"Sorry! We're all out of love this Christmas.
Come back next year when it's sold."
But it's long before springtime.
It's winter. I'm cold.
Happy exploring in the Word according to Mark.