Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Hate Christmas

I hate, I despise your festivals and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them...Take away the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:21-24

So it took me about a week of Advent to get to that moment when I decide I am going to quit my job, sell my possessions, and go live in a yurt in Vermont somewhere far, far, away from anything holiday-related.  The moment happened while we were on our way back from the gingerbread house competition at the Worcester Art Museum.  I am not sure what pushed me over the edge.

The gingerbread house thing used to be quite an event when it was held at the now-defunct Higgins armory.  Higgins was an old factory that had been refitted to look like a 1940's idea of what a castle might be like.  Think Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. Inside was an excellent collection of armor and weapons.  It was decorated for the holiday.  There were various musicians of the sort one might expect to see at one's local "Christmas Revels" performance.  The entries tended to lean toward castles (how could they not?) and were done by very talented families, restaurants, and technical school culinary programs.  This year--in its new location--the castles were still there but they were set up in a hallway and might as well have been kids' science experiments for all the presentation they got.  Except for the promotion.  The event was promoted as something...well...better.

Fortunately the trip was saved by the wonder that is the Worcester Art Museum.  If you haven't been, it is worth the drive.  I promise.  The armor was set up in its own exhibit ("Knights!").  Also, they have a respectable permanent collection of European and American art along with a few very special pieces you will have to see for yourself.  The point is, I am not sure that was what caused the funk.

More likely it was the drive in the dark and rain down Route 9 in order to get home.  There are few better examples of how enforced happiness just makes us more vicious.  If you live in the 'burbs (and odds are you do) you know Route 9 even if your Route 9 has a different name.  There are malls and shopping centers one after the other for miles and miles.  There is traffic exacerbated by awkward street lights, weird pedestrian crossings, and eccentric driving from all the people who use their animal brains to get the best deal. People come from other states to research how not to build a road. It is that bad.  In December it is at its worst, because we are at our worst, too.

Anyway, I hit the ribbon candy wall.  I was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and upended.  I sat there in the traffic thinking about all that is going on in the world right now.  We have a whole lot of problems. Yes, police militarization and entrenched racism spring right to mind these days, but do you remember immigration?  How about  those fraternities?  Yet here we all were, on this ridiculous road on a Saturday night generally not coping well. In fact, we were engaged in another illness...rampant consumerism.  My job is to point out the places where God exists in our lives and to point out the powers that keep us isolated from the Divine in ourselves, in each other, and in the world.   I thought of all the places that I am able to see God and Jesus at work--some of them are truly strange--and I felt far, far from any of them.

Now, I hit that wall pretty early.  However, that is probably also work-related.  You see this season is something I start planning for pretty early in the year.  Also, most of what I do in Advent has something to do with the holiday.  There are no TP reports in the ministry, after all.  Anyway, I got better because Sunday happened.  We had church.  I got to preach on that ancient Occupy-protester known as John the Baptizer.  I talked about fruitcake.  In fact, I was in a good enough mood to go to the Elm Bank Festival of Trees and check out the electric trains at the "Snow Village".  Very cool.

So I don't hate Christmas today.  Tomorrow, of course, I may change my mind.  That is how it works sometimes.  I suspect that everyone will hit the wall at least once this holiday season.  The struggle for all of us is what we do when we do.  For some folks it is best to step back, stop listening to carols, read a book about something else, start thinking about baseball season.  Others can go all in and surrender to the craziness of it all.

For me it is always an issue of redefining the holidays.  For most folks this is a secular holiday with a vaguely religious veneer.  The absence of actual spiritual meaning is filled up with some pretty shallow stuff.  My problem on Saturday night essentially stemmed from being confronted with the Christmas that I don't believe in.  That Christmas I hate.  For me this is a time when we take our spiritual beliefs (whatever they may be) and try to live into them.  We try to be the sort of person we once aspired to be.  We try to be the one we are called to be.  All the decorations and rituals are there to remind us that life is more than what we see.  That our divine connections are what are most important.  Fortunately I have church to remind of this even when it isn't Christmas.

I hope your acts of redefinition are going well.  I pray that you have found an Advent discipline that keeps you grounded and committed.  If you need a hand, let me know.  We all have times when this season starts to look like a long party that has ceased to be either interesting or relevant.  If this happens to you and you want to talk.  Drop me a line.  You know where to find me.

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