Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reconsidering Christmas

Here is a string of provocative, thoughtful and informative links about Christian values in general and Christmas in particular. I found them by drilling into a mother-lode found at Young Anabaptist Radicals.

Confessions of a half-hearted Christmas radical

As a Mennonite, and an activist, I’ve always been aware of the huge gaping problems with Christmas as practiced in America. I know all about the Christmas industrial complex and the way it has stolen the true spirit of Christmas. I’ve read many an article about simplifying Christmas and getting back to it’s true spirit. I know that corporate America has taught us to consume to live rather than live to consume. I honor Buy Nothing Day.

But somehow, none of this has ever stuck very well. It’s not that I’m a shop-a-holic or even an extravagant gift giver. But despite my radical aspirations, there’s something sentimental or romantic in me that really enjoys the Christmas tree and the Christmas carols and the warm, fuzzy feeling I start feeling sometime in the week after Thanksgiving. And I’ve never really found a way to shape a consistent alternative Christmas tradition.

But this year, I’ve finally come across someone who takes liberating Christmas seriously. My good friends Tim and Patty Peebles are featured on the cover story of the Mennonite: Throwing out the tree.

That's where it starts. Be advised, if you take time to drill into the links, you will be sitting at the monitor for some time.

American Communion: The Book of Cynics, Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass that Jesus came to America, not in the way of Joseph Smith's story; rather, he showed up at Chili's in a Southern state. He was tired and hungry and wanted bread and wine. 2 When he discovered the wine available at Chili's, he immediately left that place and went to a local restaurant with a better menu. 3 The place was frequented by many different people of various races and religions (some having no religion) and political leanings. 4 He sat at a table in the rear of the bar and ordered a red table wine (under $15) and a basket of bread. 5 After the server brought the bread and wine, she asked if she could get Jesus an appetizer or lunch. 6 "Nay," Jesus replied. "But please, invite all the patrons to come have bread and wine with me."

Go to the link to find out what hapened. The last verse is "32 I would like to take communion with all of you," Jesus said, but no one heard him. 33 He munched his bread in silence and had one glass of wine too many before going in search of a place to pray."

Why the Devil takes VISA (Christianity Today, October, 1996)

I asked Lendol Calder, a historian in New Hampshire who devoted his doctoral dissertation to consumerism, "When did you first begin to notice the depth and breadth of consumerism in our culture?" He recalled a Christian camp for college students of several nationalities. A get-acquainted exercise divided campers by nationality, charging them to choose a song representing their culture, one that all could approve and sing to the rest of the assembly. Most nationalities reached consensus, practiced, and were ready in 10 to 20 minutes; nearly all the groups chose folk songs from their native lands.

Not the Americans. They debated over 20 minutes, then an hour. Some wanted a rock song; others suggested a series of country songs. At last they settled on the Coca-Cola jingle "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." The tune ringing in his ears, Lendol realized that commercial culture was what really bound these Americans-these American Christians- together.

This is a long, serious article. Scan first, then print it out for later reading and reflection.

In fact, most of these are pretty serious. If they don't make you at least a little uncomfortable, you've been taking too many happy pills. (That's what one of my co-workers calls the anti-depressants her doctor prescribed for bouts of menopause depression.)

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