For a long time Christmas gave me reason to spend time with my good friend Cynicism.
Cynicism and I have a good friendship going back years. We starting ganging up on Christmas sometime after the age of 12. The magic wore off and all the hubabaloo seemed like a waste. Decorating the tree became a chore. I mean seriously, it is a tree in your house with things hanging off it. A tree. In your house. It was all just a lot of stuff that needed to get cleaned up later.
I know, I’m a total grinch.
Once I got old enough to understand consumerism and it became hip to rag on Christmas because of the rampant consumerism – well that was a train I was going to ride. I took pictures of the security towers that got installed in the mall parking lot during the holiday season. I bragged about my ability to avoid stores and the mall. I raked Black Friday over the coals. “It’s all about Jesus!” I shouted with total contempt for the smacks who missed the point.
Then my son was born.
Christmas changes when you begin to see it through the eyes of a child. All the wonder and magic is resurrected when a child eyes widen at the sight of a lit tree. Their ability to easily believe and accept the mystery of God incarnate moves us to, not only want to accept it with the same ease, but begin to as we recount the story.
The other morning I walked into my son’s toy room to find him playing with Lightning McQueen, Blue Thunder the monster truck, and an angel from his nativity. When I asked what he was doing he said, “The angel is telling Lightning and Blue Thunder the good news.”
“What good news?”
“That Jesus is going to be born on Christmas.”
I had to tell Cynicism we couldn’t play that day, and that Christmas might be off limits from now on.
Becoming a father helped me get Christmas. I began to see what I could not before. It is all about Jesus. All of it.
Including the parts that make me want to gouge my eyes out.
I know, not everyone swamps Toys-R-Us at 11:15 on a Wednesday in December because of their deep love for the Christ-child, but it’s all happening because of Jesus The reason we bundle ourselves up in layers of clothes to cut down a tree and strap it to our suburban so it can rain needles all over our house is because of Jesus. The reason men and women risk their lives stringing Christmas lights to the eaves of their roofs, the reason men spend hours cussing as they search for the one light that is causing the whole strand to stay black, the reason we cram baking enough cookies to feed Akron into our already over-scheduled month is because of Jesus.
Any other reason wouldn’t be enough.
I still get cynical about the consumerism of Christmas. And I can bitch about it all I want. But whether I like what it has become or not, the reality is that Christmas is celebrated because of Jesus.
The spiritual discipline for the Christian during Christmas is to see that it is, in fact, all about Jesus.