Monday, December 21, 2009
Musings on Christmas
I read this today and felt like I was finally reading something new about the "quandary of Christmas." Tell me what you think.
I have this running quandary about Christmas. I get upset about it, because I feel that we American Christians make too much of it, and too little. Too little of it, because we pile all sorts of other things onto it, including some that have only the feeblest connection with the Event it is supposed to commemorate. If God did become a man, in any real sense, it is the most important thing that ever happened. Surely we, who believe it, could well devote one day a year to uninterrupted contemplation of the fact, and let Saturnalia fall on the winter solstice, where it belongs.
On the other hand, we make so much of the actual birth, and forget the things that make it more than just the birth of a baby (though even that is, in Walt Whitman's phrase, "miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels"*)--more, even, than the birth of the greatest man who ever lived. We forget the promise to Eve of a descendant who will solve the problem of Evil; the promise to Abraham of one by whom all mankind will be blessed; the promise to Moses of a greater prophet than he, to arise from his people; and the promise to David of a Son who would be his Master. We forget about the eternal Purpose behind it all: it's like telling a story and leaving out the point. Yes, it is true that God gave us His Son, and so maybe we ought also to give gifts--but what, and to whom? It is also true that God gave us Himself, and the only sensible response to that is to give ourselves to Him. There is nothing else that He wants from us, or, if there is something, He can take it. Only I, my ego, my heart, is truly mine to give or to withhold--and is therefore the appropriate gift to Him.
... Robert MacColl Adams (1913-1985), letter, 1982
* Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Song of Myself, in Leaves of Grass