My Christmas Encyclical
A Christmas Exhortation
Christmas has a vast Santa's bag of meanings, most of them in the eye of the beholder. But, I contend, in the eye of the eternal beholder, Christmas is the celebration of human existence.
Beginning with a baby, the one in Bethlehem, born to a young woman and a middle-aged man, the miracle celebrated billions of times, the emergence of new life, and with it bright possibilities for something better, no matter the repeated failures of everyone who has come before, hallelujah and amen!, God has not given up on us, tomorrow will come, the sun will shine, love will grow, life will triumph at last.
Christmas is the celebration of this mortal life.
Bring on the eggnog. Cook up the plum pudding. Hang the lights on the tree. Sing Gene Autry's song, Mel Torme's too. Pray for snow, but not too much. Smile at strangers and wish them a merry. Indulge little children. Sit by the fireside if you have one; if not turn on the TV's virtual fireplace. Give the dog a bone. Wear a red stocking cap with a white wool ball on top. Write to people in distant places... and to the next door neighbor. Put a wreath on the front of your car. Add whipped cream to your mince meat pie. Phone your grandparents. Do all the silly, extravagant, and wonderfully childish things you can get away with this season.
Christmas is the celebration of our humanity.
Go to church. Several times. Before and after the 25th. Sing "Silent Night" until you hanker for a different carol. Feel a tiny tear trace down the cheek when the children's pageant trots out the lovable clichés with angel wings, crooks, and magi beards. Put a larger offering in the plate than your spouse advises. Sit (for a change) while the organist plays a triumphant postlude. Relish the aroma of the evergreens. Stay awake during the sermon. Oh, all right, doze, but just a little. Tell the preacher he never preached better, which evaluation will not be even a white lie. And when the peace is passed, slip in a "Merry Christmas."
Christmas is God's celebration of our humanity.
Spread the good news. That God lives. That God lives with us. That eternity enters time. That heaven bends to earth. That the Almighty is incarnated in our weakness. That the ineffable is effable. That the one who is beyond tears and sorrow is with us in the valley of shadows. That the everlasting is come to die. And in the last deed of a good and loving life to provide us with a bridge to a far better tomorrow. Share that news. God lives. God cares. Believe it for your own soul's sake.
Christmas is our celebration of God's humanity.
From candy canes to killing cross. With Noels and Rudolphs. On the street corner and in the sanctuary. With gifts to the kiddies and kindness to the homeless. For goodness's sake and for no good reason at all. At the feasting table and around the table of bread and wine. Around the tree or around the town. Erasing the boundary between sacred and secular.
Let Christ out of Christmas.