a few days ago, i read a post by james ford on his blog, monkey mind, that contrasts the "christmas jesus" with the "easter jesus." i, too, have been troubled by these two images of jesus and wrote about them around easter of last year. each christmas i am caught up in the magic of the season--the lights, the greenery, the benevolent and jolly elf who brings gifts to all the world's children, the constant reminders of our longing for peace and good will. while we decry the commercialism of christmas, that doesn't bother me, because i love nothing more than looking for presents for those i hold dear. i look forward to giving my end-of-year gifts to charities i find doing good works that are beyond my capacity to perform--enabling those with little to improve their lots, providing clean water where none would be available otherwise, broadcasting news that is fair and impartial and music that is lovely, promoting peace in far places, enabling youngsters in impoverished areas to get an education.
in short, i love christmas in a way i can never love easter. christmas is about those things that are important. it is not about triumph. it's strains are not martial anthems full of words like "victory" or "conquer," but rather about humble people in humble places, in mangers and fields. even when we sing "we three kings of orient are," the sense of the text is about the mystery of following a star to a lowly manger, not about the pomp of the "kings" themselves. the only christmas image i find disturbing is that of ascribing kingship to the baby whose birth christmas celebrates. i suppose that is why one of my favorite christmas hymns is "thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown," even though its last stanza speaks of "[jesus] coming to victory." the refrain is what endears the song to me ("o come to my heart, lord jesus, there is room in my heart for thee) as it links the inability of mary and joseph to find sanctuary in bethlehem with making a space for what jesus represents in our hearts.
the christian winter celebration with all its non-christian overtones, is a uniting of all the longings of humankind through the ages, sharing so much with many ancient traditions that have nothing to do with the birth of a baby in bethlehem. it is a symbol of our belief that light will overcome darkness, that the earth will be renewed, that kindness and generosity are better than selfishness and greed, that the meek will inherit the earth.
may this season bring you joy. may each of us find peace and comfort in doing good for one another. shalom.