Christmas has come and gone. Again.
Beautiful; we still take a few days to BreakAway from our jobs, routines, and rat race. With any luck, we even reflect, rest, and renew old ties.
But the party is far from over. Now comes the clean-up, the bills, the weight-loss angst, and the withdrawal from holiday hype.
What’s happened to this sacred season, anyway? What’s happened to our culture? I mean, in an era of unemployment, austerity, and alleged rethinking of values, the season’s headlines obsess about retail sales. It would appear that Christmas has become Growth Engine #1—and I’m not talking spiritual growth.
Meanwhile, I can’t remember the last time a Christmas carol lilted through a public school. The radio and mall soundtrack is all “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Let it Snow.” The Christian denominations are losing souls and houses of worship as fast as other religions are gaining them.
Oh sure, you can find a few expanding strains of Christianity. And they are likely to be heavily political and opinionated (in ways that may not agree with the Beatitudes). Or they preach the poppy ME message of Prosperity Theology: “Make Me Rich.” As uber-triumphant (and uber-rich) Reverend Joel Osteen puts it:
God has said that he will open the windows of heaven and pour such blessing that you will not be able to contain it!”
Oh well, people are just trying to be happy, right? And when that’s the goal, it may be better to receive than to give. Better to focus on a personal path than consider sacrifice for world needs or relationship growth.
But the truth (if there is one) of “happiness” may hide in big-hearted, old-school stories like Christmas, not just new-age websites, shopping malls, and self-help shelves.
Search “self help books” on Google and get 191,000,000 links to explore. Search “self help” on Amazon and ponder 155,000 “results.” The first “result” is a book with a title that starts, “When Am I Going to Be Happy?…”
Well, “happy” may be a simplistic, self-absorbed pursuit, anyway. Jesus never promised happiness. That’s just what we now ask of Christmas, spirituality, and so many things. And of course, successful living in these times is all about the asking, not so much the sharing.
Was there ever a day when Christmass meant more than merriment, Macys, and money?