Preacher, Please, a Grinchless Christmas from the Pulpit
Advent begins Sunday (12/02/07). Once more I issue an unimpassioned appeal to preachers to forgo that staple of the pulpit in this merriest of seasons: jeremiads against Christmas as experienced by six year olds and the rest of us who remember what it's like to be six years old, when the frost is on the pumpkin and Santa jingles bells in most of the TV ads.
Okay, okay, dear pastor, we know that fresh ideas on an old, old story are hard to come by. We also know how easy it is to lambaste the purveyors of perfume and diamonds who do their purveying in the name of the fellow for whom there was no room in the inn and who said of himself in his maturity that he had nowhere to lay his head. Playing that riff for a paragraph we can tolerate; but, please, not for half the sermon.
How about taking for your text, friend and spiritual advisor, Philippians 1:15-18, especially that last verse, "What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice." Think that thought and cop a couple of examples, please (because we would be happy to, even if you won't), as you walk down the avenue while Bing and Luciano carol from speakers outside shops enticing you to buy.
May we, dear preacher, ask you to go a step further? Would you, please, give us a sermon on John 3:16 (I mean, we all know it by heart) with reference to the carol, "God Rest You Merry"? We don't remember (those of us with a smattering of acquaintance with the Gospel) a single instance of a soul being shamed into discipleship. People, we seem to remember, flock to Jesus for the same reason we do, because there's just something about the guy, positive vibrations, a welcoming disposition, that makes us feel we matter and are capable of great things.
Hey, my friend, how about using the commercialization of Christmas as the occasion for the Christianization of commercialization? Such sacred subversion been done often enough in the last one thousand nine hundred and seventy-five years. Pagan firs have been baptized into yule trees. The seder was transfigured into the Eucharist. The pentacle has been rescued from its occult origins and become the blessed Star of the East. Hells bells! celebrating Jesus' birth at the winter solstice is a steal of the Roman Saturnalia. The case might be made that the only thing original about our Christmas is the baby in the manger. Everything else has been borrowed. Why not do a little holy undercutting of the great Christmas sell-out and point the world to the presence of Christ in other least likely places, like Macy's or West Farms Mall?
Just a thought. We don't want to tell you what to preach. That's between you and Jesus. But we'll be praying that the crucified and resurrected rabbi will push you in a happier, grinchless direction.