Keeping Christmas in Perspective

By December 8, 2015 No Comments

We don’t really celebrate Christmas in the United States. Instead, we celebrate something called “Thanks-mass.” It begins shortly after Halloween and then stretches all the way through to the New Year. It’s a concoction of sundry holidays and festivities all thrown into a bowl and then tossed together like a salad. Our frenzied lives mean that we don’t have the margin required to celebrate holidays with any nuance. When life is overly full of activities, stresses, and work, a small observance just isn’t worth the disruption that such celebrations require. So–in good American fashion–we go big!

What do we lose in our rush to super-size Christmas?

For one thing, we lose perspective. For those of who are Christian–and I’m thinking here primarily of Protestants–our rush to focus on the majors means that the way we experience the story of our faith is dominated by two events each year–Christmas and Easter.

These two holidays are, in reality, the high points of the Christian calendar and central to the Christian story. However, the way we Christians tend to celebrate these two holidays effectively sanitizes the real scandal of God becoming man and then giving himself to death.

We focus on the tranquility of the incarnation–a peaceful birth in the midst of the pastoral beauty of the ancient near east.

We celebrate the resurrection–who wants to celebrate the whole Triduum?–with its, once more, tranquil beauty of an early morning angelic encounter at an empty tomb.

In many ways our faith has become manic–moving periodically from euphoria to hyperactivity. 

While it’s true that hype sells, it’s also true that lives are not changed by hype. No, our growth in holiness is a long obedience in the same direction; a pilgrim’s progress that is marked by missteps and tumbles.

As we enter Advent, its time for us to slow down and anticipate the birth of Christ in a way that allows us to move farther into the mystery of God become man in order to redeem us.

We’re pushed toward Thanks-mass, but let’s try–with God’s help–to keep Advent too.

Read Jeff’s work at www.jeffgissing.com.

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Jeff Gissing

Author Jeff Gissing

Jeff is director of discipleship at the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is married to Anna Moseley Gissing with whom he has two children, Nathan (6) and Eliza (4).

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