I have seen television programmes that find those who are aging before they (all) die. Living soldiers of
WW1 WW2. Veterans as we now call all ex-armed forces. Anyone who signs up for the myriad of thoughtful and spontaneous unknowing reasons we all do things. Now elevated to “Thank you for your service” and the title “Veteran”. Which probably makes us feel much better than “them”.
Almost all the soldiers who survived
WW1 WW2 are dead. And the breaking of that direct linkage is mourned. The concern that we will indeed forget. That it becomes just another history lesson devoid of human relationship with those living warriors.
I think the Christmas Story is something like that.
Babies afoot everywhere we look. Babies are exciting! Babies are of hope! Babies not yet toddlers and young children and teenagers that is. Then reality gets in the way. All the poo and sick, the endless crying for something and nothing, the tantrums and favouritism extended (and denied), the good-looking ones and the “not-so-much” ones, the stroppy ones and the well-behaved ones (to the right adults) …
All of that reality isn’t of sentimentality and rose-tinted glasses (until afterwards). Too close to our own reality … not enough “mystery” to keep the Christmas Story as we like it year after year … Enough so we can wave a righteous-finger and “tut –tut” at those who “commercialise” Christmas … those sinners who think that spending way too much and having permanent acid-heartburn is what Christmas is all about.
Yet the Christmas Story has been “commercialised” beyond any relationship with reality. A marketeer’s perfect creation of fairy dust and product placement. We have no direct relationship with the key players. All dead and no longer with us.
“And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:10-13
I don’t read about the dusty peeps getting excited about Christmas and our perfect Christmas Story. I don’t see the key players having any notion they were writing history.
I see hindsight.
I see each day’s confusion now making perfect sense. Just like the “perfect sense” in marketing this “story” to the unchurched … in cranking up “scriptural excitement” in those not much older than baby Jesus. I do read about “ways your church can reach the unchurched”. I do hear church-life being subjugated to the frenzy of getting “everything right” – everything “perfectly in place”. I do read about “self-help strategies” for hardworking clergy at this time of year. I do read the stats that say more people decide to get divorced at this time of year than any other. I know many who find the dichotomy of “perceived perfect joy” v real everyday pain-loss too much to bear. Those who feel they are burden to “the rest of us” chasing perfect perception. The rest of us tut-tutting at those who are crying “humbug” (or just crying inside).
If the Christmas Story has taught me anything it is this … God Jesus Spirit does not give a flying f**k about any of it.
Just as those aging warriors dealt with the reality of trench-foot, mind-numbing shelling, death by day and night, keeping on going despite losing sight of what any of it was all about … That “reality” does not play well back home. Just as the reality of the “Christmas Story” wasn’t even a Story until we made it so.
I love the season of goodwill.
I put on a Christmas Jumper and live the “uniform” in public – “HoHoHo to all men and women” … We dress the house and are wowed with the innocent excitement of our young grandchildren … We love the fun and excitement and budget (better) for the expense.
But the religious content is no different to the commercial content: both packaged and presented to “play well” back home.
Then the disciples understood …
I am not so sure we do any more.