Two Liturgies Competing for Christmas
There are two liturgies competing for which Christmas you embrace.
One starts with Advent… marking the historic Christmas… heralding in the celebration remembering the birth of the Son of God as a human, and the anticipation waiting for His return… the other filled with meaningless schedule (& tummy stuffing) distractions.
One marked with Good Friday, the other marked with Black Friday. Accident or not, there is a spiritual significance to that contrast.
One marked with worship, the other marked with long lines of shopping – before Black Friday!
Okay, Okay! Yes, I am an iconoclast. Yes, I did preach to a large, large church – four services – dashing tensil, red & green, and parties in gold sequence dresses and Thomas Kenkade paintings… I’m sorry! Yes, I took down the one dimensional Christmas of Rudolf instead interjecting that the cute little baby we embrace at Christmas came for ONE reason – to die a horrible tortured death at the hands of people who hated what he stands for.
Yes, I’m wrestling the reality of two competing Christmases… this year it has me more ampted than normal: Thanksgiving surrendered to 24 hour shopping…
The secular Christmas has no meaning, but proposes celebration for celebration’s sake. It proposes happiness for it’s own sake – because all is well – at least if we are the top 10% in consumer western cultures – wait – the top 20% in the top 10% of the western successful world. Don’t get me wrong at all – there is nothing wrong with the parties, the gifts, the tree, the lights, the events, the family and friends. I like it – a lot. My issue is that Christmas gets shallow and misses the point. You know how “the means becomes the end and we lose what the means was even about and for?”
The sacred Christmas is amazing and the symbolism of the liturgical traditions are ever more so – giving us intentional changes to color, to song, to read Scripture, to our posture, to celebrate and prepare – keeping the Christ in perspective! The anticipation and celebration then has meaning, the gift giving has iconic meaning… You know the gifts – while I think we focus way, way too much on stuff – I’m not a fan of Staff Mart… Well, I like gifts, and I love to give them. The real joy I love in giving gifts reminds me of the Imago Dei we have – for He loves giving us gifts. I love to give my sons gifts, my wife, my friends.
This weekend as I attended a service and the Advent candle was lit – marking, anticipating, growing, and the passages chosen – marking the waiting – the turning of waiting to His coming and making all right.
When I wait – when I anticipate and when I’m eager for God’s rescue to fix so, oh so many thing… I stop and wonder why people do not get excited about His return… because most of us only have the “apple pie by and by” concept. Maybe a picture-an idea- a vision of what will be… Maybe then we anticipate with joy that coming, that future… which makes Christmas more, so much more, so rich… Ever read CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia? An epic of seven books where there is an allegorical story with Christ depicted as Aslan, a lion, and a group of young brothers and sisters who again and again return to their real world – London, middle of WWII… returning the minute they left – even when gone a long time.
Please allow me to share this vision – the last page – the last chapter – the last book of the Chronicle series….
Further up and further in! roared the Unicorn, and no one held back…And soon they found themselves all walking together – and a great bright procession it was – up towards mountains higher than you could see in this world even if they were there to be seen. But there was no snow on those mountains: there were forests and green slopes and sweet orchards and flashing waterfalls, one above the other, going up or ever. And the land they were walking on grew narrower all the time, with a deep valley on each side: and across that valley the land which was the real England grew nearer and nearer.
The light ahead was growing stronger. Lucy saw that a great series of many-colored cliffs led up in front of them like a giant’s staircase. And then she forgot everything else, because Aslan himself was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty…
Aslan turned to them and said: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.” Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our world so often.” “No fear of that”, said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?” Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. “There was a real railway accident”, said Alsan softly. “You’re father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
This anticipation, this joy, this future – this celebration of the baby in perspective, yes, with the life & death & His resurrection – but also the coming again! For some, it’ll be a disaster – a horrible ending, for those listening, waiting and anticipating His return – JOY!
So this Christmas, don’t diminish Christmas to only be parties, gifts to support a consuming materialism, but put all of the celebration habits we know as Christmas into a larger picture – joy at the baby Jesus, anticipating Easter to celebrate all He accomplished for us and anticipating no more, no more, no more but joy!