I love merrymaking. That’s part of the reason I work for Santa.
Most times, when I don the red and white suit, I drive around town to where I’m going. Would it surprise you that a lot of people wave at me? They slow down or speed up to me, quick to roll down their windows. There’s something about the suit and the beard. They bring out the smile in even some pretty tough-looking people.
Now, I say that so you won’t think I’m a bah humbug-er.
Our tame, sentimental Christmas jollities need something more. They don’t compare to what the Bible holds up as the focus of our faith. The Word becoming flesh is so much more than baby Jesus.
Two of the gospel accounts don’t even get into Jesus’ birth. Also, there’s nothing cutesy about Simeon and Anna. Simeon sees in the holy child one that will “cause the falling and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). Anna sees that redemption has come after many, many years of praying and fasting.
How much does fasting occupy your holiday preparations?
Let’s also not forget about Mary’s song. It’s powerful in and of itself. But it also calls back to Hannah’s song. Hannah sees bows broken. Powerful people will beg for bread. God will exalt the poor. At Christmas, we can’t get around to those themes. As God’s people, they must be at the center of what we remember. White Christmases don’t make their way into biblical hope.
One of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas is The Muppets Christmas Carol. The ghost of Christmas present is my Santa inspiration. He is a merrymaker. His signature song reminds us that “wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”
Before we meet Scrooge’s jolly companion, we see some of Ebenezer’s past. But there’s a problem. Film executives decided to remove a song from the movie. It’s called The Love is Gone. (Google it). It still bugs me they took it out because they thought children wouldn’t understand it. It would be a few extra minutes wasted.
That song helps us understand some of Mr. Scrooge’s pain. Without it, we’re missing something important that develops in the story. In the same way, holly and jolly are not at the center of God with us. We reserve that space for salvation and hope.
You probably know people right now that feel bad for feeling bad right now. It’s supposed to be a joyful and festive time. But something’s weighing on them and they can’t quite get there. That’s not their fault. It’s not ours either. But it is a reminder that our faith takes us deeper to those hurts and struggles. That’s where God walks and where the Incarnation takes us. And when the love of God accompanies us in our pain, fear or hopelessness, it feels like Christmas.