Christmas Panic

It’s December 23! Christmas is two days away!! How did that happen? While the Scrooge/Grinch in me was busy wrestling with the true spirit of Christmas somebody flipped the pages on the calendar. I’m mostly “ready” for Christmas according to the culture’s standards. Cards sent, most shopping done, decorations and tree have been up for weeks, and family celebrations are planned.

But as usual the tensions between the materialism of how we do Christmas and the crazy busyness of the season are at war with the joy and peace I preach and write about. Is it harder for pastors and other religious leaders to reconcile those warring factions than for others? I’m not nearly as frantic with church responsibilities as I was pre-retirement; so it’s not that, but the struggle didn’t retire when I did.

Part of the problem is that all the “peace on earth” and “joy to the world” stuff just doesn’t ring true with what I’m seeing and feeling around me. I am genuinely fearful for the future of humanity just now. Climate change predictions are frightful and the leadership vacuum in our government on that issue is so short-sighted as to be criminal. Thousands of immigrant kids are locked up at the border, cabinet members and other key advisers to the president are dropping like flies, the stock market is on the verge of a crash, and part of the government is shut down because the little boys in DC can’t put national interests ahead of political ones.

Am I a hypocrite to proclaim good news when a deep part of me doesn’t believe there is any? Methodist founder John Wesley is credited with saying, “Preach faith till you have it.” That advice certainly keeps one humble and searching for a lifetime, even when the darkness seems to be extinguishing the last ray of hope.

And that’s why we tell the ancient story again. It’s an old story. David defeats Goliath and now this tiny, vulnerable, defenseless heir of David has an insecure ruler shaking in his boots. We know the story. Herod doesn’t win; wealth and worldly power are no match for God incarnate in a refugee child. We know the story, but we need to hear it again and again. Love wins! Love Wins! And we must tell that story over and over until we believe it.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Panic

  1. Finally found time to read this two days after Christmas — Ha! a sign of my own busy-ness. I found your message right on, Steve; I, too, have had moments, while pastoring churches, of wondering whether pastors feel the chasm between God’s intentions and what we do with Christmas more strongly than others, or do the persons we pastor feel it just as strongly? I’ve had parishioners mention to me that they feel this divide, this conundrum, yet, as far as I know, those who have said that don’t actually change in order to decrease the busy-ness. I’ve done “small things,” such as trying to make my gift giving smaller in quantity and more significant in meaning, but mostly still try to “do it all” (the cultural aspects of Christmas), so I’m right in there with this conundrum. God, show us the way!

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