Christmas Lunacy, Blackmail, and Furious Purchasing Rampages

Friday Salutations Rock Creek Folk,

Recently, as if only emerging on our planet recently, I’ve been stumped as several conversation kindling logs have been laid before me like, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I promise I realize about social customs, and that the request is merely another way of “talking about the weather”, a more elaborate “how’ve things been going for you? Or how are you?” I believe small talk is a mighty important feature of our connected lives together.

So I shrug and chuckle....”Uh...no” Then the barber or the check-out lady at theWalgreens and I both shake our heads knowingly. Relieved, apparently to discover once again, that indeed, “misery loves company.”

I wish I had a more clever response. 

I wish we didn’t have to ask each other the question. 

I wish I hadn’t just heard my email ding with an email from Gil and Curt, the Florists asking if I need “New Holiday Decor.” Nothing against Ole Gil or Curt...they were just the last email I got reminding me of the emergency we are all in. Hibbettt’s Sports, Land’s End, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Southern Marsh, Altra Running...it’s easy to imagine that all my friends must be vendors and that neither they nor the social world I inhabit is going to like me anymore unless I go on a furious purchase rampage. 

Blaring Background Noise
And they are the background noise blaring, “You’ve only got 2 weeks left to purchase all your hopes, make the only memories that matter, and to recapture (or to create like never before) the nostalgic warmth, coziness, and fullness that is caringly depicted in each new Lexus commercial. 

So on this Friday in Advent, I wanted to propose a counter-measure that I don’t fully expect to matter. But I’ll lob it out there any way as a sanity producing measure. For Christians, what CS Lewis called “the commercial racket” of Christmas (some 60 years ago!), can be stiff-armed a bit. Or at least should be. 

This time of waiting for the reappearing of our Savior and remembering his first arrival in our skin shouldn’t be a pressure cooker that makes everyone miserable. Should it? 

“Our Lunatic Condition”
“It’s Christmas Clark, we’re all in misery” sympathized Beverly D’Angelo to Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation as she nervously fumbles to re-start a habit of cigarette smoking. CS Lewis would have agreed:

“We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things.”

And I agree with his resigned confusion...

”I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity.” 

He was convinced that part of the madness of our time is that our practice of the commercial parts of Christmas had come “to produce more pain than pleasure” and was largely “involuntary.” Gift-giving, which in and of itself is a lovely thing, can become (and again this was 60 years ago!) become a polite form of blackmail. Here’s more:

“It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house. “

Going Against the Stream with 3 Petitions
And his British contemporary for some of his life, GK Chesterton, aptly reminded in a different circumstance, that, “a dead thing can go against the stream but only a living thing can go against it.”

I have no instruction, except to suggest: how about pausing and making the following three petitions part of your regular Advent prayers?

1) Lord Jesus, show me ways where I may, in cooperation with you, bring solace, comfort, and cheer during this frantic season, especially to those most lonely, distressed, and over-wrought.

2) Lord Jesus, prohibit me from adding to the insurmountable pressure (and “the lunatic condition in our country”) so many around me feel by my demands that Christmas be realized in precisely the way I hope. (whether you want way less of Christmas and or way more of it!---either way can create its burdens instead of lifting them.) 

3) Lord Jesus, “blink our eyes wide open” so WE (everyone around me and me) may capture and depict “a thrill of hope” so “the weary world rejoices” in surpising and joy-producing ways that don’t have a thing to do with what we can get through Amazon prime---but might, since we have to participate in such in some ways.

Those are long requests. But they make us pause a moment to consider what we are doing, what we are expecting, and upon Whom we are depending for the realization of our fiercest longings. 

If you’d like to read Lewis’s take on Modern Christmas, you may read the clever and rather short essay here. 

Sanity Producing Communal Practice
And if you would like some communal help in participating in some practices most likely to re-orient you during this dizzying season let me suggests you:

1) Keep worshipping each Sunday during Advent, even on Christmas Day, which falls on a Sunday this year. Our children will do their pageant at both sites, this coming Sunday December 11, and we will have Christmas Eve Candlelight Service on the 24th, and worship at both sites at regular time on Christmas day, Sunday 25th.

2) Come sing with us and drink some hot chocolate next wednesday December 14, 2016 at 6 at the Pole Barn on Mount Olive...as an exercise of re-enchanting your thought world and aspirations by singing with and to our Savior and his people!

May our Lord enchant us this season in splendid ways that bring his refreshment, and make us a blessing to many others. 

Warmly,

Pastor Eric

Clara Connis