January 05, 2004

Sorry I've slacked off again, but I was fighting off a virus all weekend. I suspect it was that flu that's been going around, since the major symptom was crushing fatigue. Anyway, I seem to have fought it off, but I have to get ready for my mother's arrival tomorrow. So posting will be intermittent for another week or so.

One bright spot in the weekend was that I finally heard from Telford. Fans no doubt have noticed he hasn't posted since November 12, and I hadn't heard from him in about a month, so I was wondering what was happening. Turns out his entire family got the flu, all except him, so he spent the holidays as a nurse. Being him, though, he sounded pretty sanguine about it all. When I wrote him I mentioned in passing that there had been a dispute in blogdom about Christmas, and he remarked:

I love Christmas, except when I'm at the ER holding a fussy Benjamin. The sentiment is fun, and we participate in all the usual American traditions, but nothing is better than the church service (whether it is the Sunday before at CA, which we missed, or a Christmas Eve vigil at Lake Avenue or St. Mark's, which we also missed). Sure, America turns Christmas into indulgence and consumerism and all the rest, but church cuts through it with the good news of Jesus Christ, which rescues every Christmas from its own trappings and even redeems them. Even when the trappings are a morning in the ER holding an inconsolable baby (shades of Bethlehem there, perhaps)!

That reminded me that I meant to link to Richard Hall's post on Christmas and materialism. I think he made a very good point:

Christmas is a supremely materialistic festival. We celebrate the fact that God took human flesh -- became incarnate -- and lived among his people. He did not enter the world as a glorious heavenly being. He came as a baby, doing all the things that babies do. Forget the sentimental carols and Christmas cards. If the Christian gospel means anything at all, it is that "God is with us". Through the incarnation, God takes fallen human flesh and makes it holy. I think it was Irenaeus who put it this way: "He became what we are, that we might become what he is." So if ever there was a time to celebrate our flesh with eating, merrymaking and music -- this is it! Christians should not be on the sidelines looking po-faced. We should be showing the world how to party!

The real trouble is not with Christmas, but with the rest of the year. In the west we live every day as though it were a party. The reason we over-indulge to such excess at Christmas is that we over-indulge the rest of the year. The target of the church's complaint should not be the materialism of Christmas, but the materialism of a lifestyle in which excess is not only lauded, it is practically compulsory. But, of course, it is much harder to address an overindulgent way of life than it is to "Bah! Humbug!" about a short time of celebration. We complain about the splinter in our brother's eye but don't notice the plank in our own.

Posted by Camassia at January 05, 2004 06:05 PM | TrackBack

Hiya, Cam!
Hope you're feeling better and have been enjoying your Mom's visit.

I just thought I'd contribute a comment: that as I get older I enjoy Christmas more. I know it's hypercommercialized--we all know that. But I have decided not to participate in the hype. I give gifts to non-profits in someone's name and give them a card that I've done so. My family has stopped exchanging gifts for the adults, and we only give small gifts to the kids. Since we took this road, Christmas has become so much more about faith and joy. And ya gotta love those candle-light church services late on Christmas Eve.

I got to attend a liturgical conference over the weekend and the keynote speaker was theologian Gordon Lathrop, who actually had something interesting to say about Christmas. He talked about the early church deciding to celebrate Christmas in December in order to help people connect their faith and their culture. It seems perfectly natural to take advantage of the solstice, of the celebration of the returning of light, to set aside a time to reflect upon the gift of light and life from God in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Lathrop called the solstice, and Christmas too, a kind of festival of anxiety, which the audience found amusing. But it made sense. Darkness makes me feel anxious. Wondering if the light will, indeed, return, is an anxiety. Of course we know it will, we anticipate it, but that doesn't stop the anxiety of having to wait for it.

Not trying to make any point. Just sharing.

Be well!

Posted by: Dash on January 12, 2004 07:43 PM

camassia (and readers),

now, what this guy has to do with korea (i found him blogrolled on a bunch of Korean blogs) i don't know, but he's a catholic with a lot of postings that seem at first glance to be in-depth examinations of faith, text, and church...i didn't have much time to dig but thought the readership/authorship over here might find him interesting:


Posted by: andi on January 13, 2004 05:05 PM
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