I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas. And a Happy Christmas. I’d also like to wish you a Happy Hannukah and Happy Kwanzaa. And also a Merry Chanukah and a Merry Kwanzaa.
If you are an atheist, then just happy and merry to you.
Happy boxing day, December 26th, which is a day we celebrate our urge to kill our family members the day after, by not killing them, but by just boxing them around a bit. That’s the day we float like a butterfly, but sting like a bee, as a prophet once said.
Have you bought all your gifts? I haven’t bought any gifts yet. I’ll probably wait until after the New Year. It allows me to miss the rush and get to some post- New Year’s sales. I’m waiting for the 90% discount sales at Hermes.
I’d like to support the economy more, but for now, I’m just avoiding the madness. Not because I don’t like madness, and there’s nothing wrong with a little madness, if only because it helps you appreciate sanity. I just don’t want to be stuck in traffic.
Perhaps it is enough to sing some hymns and have a good dinner. Perhaps you will open that Chateauneuf du pape you’ve been saving from last year, when you splurged after a wine tasting one evening. Or you decided to get your ingredients from Whole Foods, including some wild mushrooms and artisenal cheese. Instead of spending a few hundred dollars on that diamond necklace, or getting some extravagant electronic device, you bought truffle oil for your mashed potatoes.
Wise choices. Truffle oil is far more important than a 75 inch plasma screen.
For the great theologian Schleiermacher, the feeling of the love of Christ was best represented by a family singing hymns around a piano after a delicious meal. He did not say it was found by a new camcorder.
Although the Flip is pretty cool.
The story of Christmas actually begins with the story of his return, with His words of peace and reconciliation. It begins with Easter. The body of believers began to understand that Christ’s love overcame the power of the gods who maliciously manipulated the lives around them. When they saw how being loved changed lives into lives that were full of potential, maganimity and creativity, they listened to the stories that were being told about Jesus’ early life, including his birth.
Tonight we celebrate the story of his birth.
And no, there is little historical evidence when or where. But we can recognize a few things within the events, the snippets of the lives told from the religious imagination of the people.
The first is that God is in surprises. The shepherds, Mary, and pretty much everyone, were a bit surprised. God as a baby makes God vulnerable and dependent, which is much different than the God who throws his weight around, making lives miserable. Granted, not all surprises are good, which is why we spend a lot of time avoiding them.
The second is that our life in the spirit is one of engagement. The child is dependent upon his family and the generosity of strangers. We are likewise truly dependent upon each other. And we’ll probably learn more about this as the year continues.
And last, Jesus loves a party. If there is a victory, if love does work, if there is justice at the end of time, if there is reason to hope, then we can afford to be magnanimous toward our enemies, patient in our work, and optimistic in our orientation. It may not get better for us, right here, in our individual lives, but the work we do together does make things better for others, even in the midst of individual sorrow and pain.
Therefore, we have plenty to celebrate about.
This is why the church placed Jesus’ birth square in the middle of Yuletide. Because the pagans had a good idea in holding parties, Christians agreed that the birth of Christ is a pretty good reason to party in itself.
So we’ll see you tonight at some time.