Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmastime for Curmudgeons

How does a curmudgeon approach Christmas?

1. This curmudgeon despises all the terrible music foisted upon innocent victims in public. Any other time of year a foray into a public space (such as a bookstore, swimming pool, or supermarket) might expose one to the good (rare), the bad (common), and the ugly (all too common). But at Christmas, it is all bad; unless someone is playing Handel's Messiah or Vince Guaraldi, which is almost never. Instead we get Dean Martin singing about a reindeer...or some pop/shlock icon screeching about something pointless or another or Stevie Wonder doing "Ava Maria."

Oh, to hear John Coltrane's version of "Greensleaves." In fact, I will hear it, since I brought that CD with me here from Denver.

The worst by far is the putrid, appalling, and horrific John Lennon Christmas song. Who cares what the name of the poison is. Lennon, an anarchistic atheist and virtuoso corrupter of youth, a hyper-narcissist, and as overrated as any artist ever has been or probably will be, dares to sing about Christ-mas. He threw in the children's voices for the effect of innocence, since Lennon had no innocence of his own. I met a man whose ex-wife--Yoko Ono--was seduced by Lennon while he and "Oh, no" were still married.

2. I will reflect on and teach about the doctrine of the glorious Incarnation. Since I am preaching on John 1:1-5, 14 on December 17, that is exactly what I am doing: reading commentaries by F.F. Bruce, D.A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, and Leon Morris, and reflecting on many passages in that beloved and profound book. Compare the glories of the Incarnation with the American observation of Christmas. Then weep. A sign on a front yard in Sun City West cries out amidst holiday trapping, "Think snow." How about, "Think Jesus"? That's too snappy, to be sure; but it's an improvement.

3. Try not to gain any more weight by consuming Christmas goodies. The holiday is rigged to encourage the already overinflated inflate even more. Gluttony is still a vice this time of year (I hear, anyway).


Craig Fletcher said...

Hyper consumption, and/or (depending on the day/week) the observation of such, leaves me wondering "am I realizing the reason for the season?" This holiday "season", while trying to reflect on the gospel and the delivery of our Lord, I have found myself wondering what the heck is going on around me? Few seem to reflect on the reason we even exist (Christ’s creation of it all), and the gospel.

Let us seize the opportunity of Christmas, every single year, to remind ourselves and other people (unbelievers and believers alike) of the selfless love Christ has shown us, so we can therefore exhibit it towards one another.

There was much talk at the pulpit, on radio, etc. after the release of “The Passion of the Christ” that we have “an opportunity like few others in recent history” to spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, and ultimately completely atoning work on the cross for the salvation of those that believe. I remember thinking “we have such an opportunity twice a year, every year; at Easter, and Christmas, to take the gospel to the streets!”

Seize it. Preach it. Defend it, with love and respect, for His glorious name. Remind people what we are truly celebrating. Save them from credit card debt and overeating.

If the gospel is actually true in objective reality, then what else is more important?

jazztheo said...

I was with you through 1 & 2, but 3? That's asking too much!

Yossman said...

Finally somebody who hates music in stores as much as I do! I hate all the jingles all year long. I even imitate them aloud as I'm shopping, making people turn their heads. It's nothing short of auditive pollution.
And then Lennon. I can't stand the guy. 'I think to myself'... 'imagine' he never existed.
Not to mention some collegues. They do all sorts of things in the 'spirit of Christmas' that have nothing to do with the Spirit of Christ.
The local Christmas decoration store makes me nauseous: opulence, greed, showing off.
I'm going to preach too. About the Word being the Light of the world before it became incarnated and being 'A Great Light' after it did become flesh.

Paul D. Adams said...

Here's an apt thought or two or three...
A Slice of Infinity
The Mind of God
by Jill Carattini

It is a strange story. There were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel appeared to them, telling them not to be afraid. A baby had been born, and they could find him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. To a peasant mother outside of Bethlehem, the Son of God was born.

If I take a step back from the familiar hum of Advent to consider the story we are really waiting for, I am thrown off my usual Christmas kilter. This is not really the innocuous historical narrative I imagine. This is not a tame story. The bright lights and colors of our Christmas pageants can easily paint over the stark scenery of a story that startles all of history. Who understands this God who comes as a child, who steps into our world through a dirty stable and the unlikely arms of an unwed mother?

Yet even long before these strange additions to the story of God among his people, the prophets were asking similar questions. "Who has understood the mind of the LORD?" (Isaiah 40:13). This God who moves among us, touching all of life and history is not the quiet and tame being we often imagine. His ways are not our ways. His stories are not the kind of stories we would write if the telling were up to us. His thoughts are the kind of thoughts that expose deception and shine in darkness, that shatter hearts and rewrite stories.

It is the same with the child born in a stable two thousand years ago. The infant we remember lying peacefully in a manger did not take long to fulfill the words spoken to his young parents: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:34-35). Is this the child we are anticipating this Advent?

British author Dorothy Sayers once lamented the manner in which Jesus is often remembered: he is the quiet sage full of wisdom, the safe and peaceful one of history. He is, for all practical purposes, somewhat dull, someone we might be interested in at a later time. Yet Sayers writes,

"The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore--on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him 'meek and mild,' and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies."(1)

Advent is a time of anticipation not for the harmless baby surrounded by lights and presents, but for the dynamic savior who is born into our midst. "Do you want to be delivered?" asked Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an Advent sermon more than 70 years ago. "That is the only really important and decisive question which Advent poses for us. Does there burn within us some lingering longing to know what deliverance really means? If not, what would Advent then mean to us? A bit of sentimentality. A little lifting of the spirit within us? A little kinder mood? But if there is something in this word Advent which we have not yet known, that strangely warms our heart; if we suspect that it could, once more, once more, mean a turning point in our life, a turning to God, to Christ--why then are we not simply obedient, listening and hearing in our ears the clear call: Your deliverance draws nigh!"(2)

In this season of Advent we remember a strange and drastic story. We anticipate nothing less than the Lion of Judah wrapped in swaddling cloths. We anticipate the coming of a Savior unhindered. Indeed, our deliverance draws nigh.

Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Dorothy Sayers, The Whimsical Christian, "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged," (New York: Collier Books, 1978), 14.

(2) Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons Edwin Robertson Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 93.

© 2006 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. All Rights Reserved.