I published this in my weekly newsletter (Christ Church Update) about a week ago and some of you wanted to see it again:
We are half way through the Advent Sundays and less than three weeks from our celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation (aka Christmas). I get a kick out of all the energy and excitement people have around the observance of Christmas. In our society there are a wide variety of celebrations going on this time of year. Our Jewish friends and neighbors are observing Hanukkah a minor observance celebrating the miracle of the oil during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabees (circa 167 BC). There are many “pagan” celebrations (pagan from the Latin paganos meaning country rural – is a reference to some of the older pre Christian religions that were practiced in Europe. Christianity was an urban movement and the older religious practices survived in the country side: hence pagan.) that note the arrival of the Winter Solstice. In recent years we have added the African American celebration of Kwanza. On top of this diversity, different Christian cultures and groups observe different parts of the Nativity story (many Hispanic cultures, for example, focus on the arrival of the “Three Kings” making January 6 – Epiphany – the bigger celebration than December 25). We could, I suppose, join the now dated Seinfeld craze and celebrate “Festivus” and just admit it is all just one big party to the end of the year anyway. In our “melting pot” American culture, much of this just gets blended together into a “Happy hanakwansolsfestimas”. Unfortunately, some Christians’ discomfort with these other celebrations often gets expressed in an exclusive “keep Christ in Christmas” – which sounds good but relegates to unimportant status all of the other observances going on around us. There is the group that gets excited and upset when Christmas gets shortened to X-mas – not knowing that the X in Greek is the letter Chi and represents Christ. I find no reason to be upset with Greek shorthand (and it is really fun to point it out to those who don’t know this). However, there is a uniqueness to the Feast of the Incarnation. Maybe the best solution is this: rather than getting worried about what other groups, cultures, and religions are or are not doing we would proceed to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation like Christians – that is living after the manner and example of Jesus (and doing a little exploding in love and service might help too!). I don’t even mind hearing “Happy Holidays” since I know that the word “Holiday” is simply another form of “Holy Day”. Wishing me a “Happy Holy Day” works just fine. It is Advent . . . are you slowing down? Are you getting ready? The Feast of the Incarnation is nearly upon us! Jesus is coming (nay, is already here!).