Christmas Reflections Part 3 – Have Yourself a Snobby Little Christmas

Warning  – if you don’t get sarcasm – Stop reading ;-)

I was done talking about this but from various conversations and looking at facebook status updates, I guess I’m not ready to drop this.  What is it about Christian holidays that gets everyone so angry? Is it all the talk of peace? Is it the joy to the world blessings? Is it the adorable personalities like Santa, Rudolph, and Buddy the Elf?

I know that people have a lot emotionally invested in the Christmas holiday. I realize that for most people, it’s an important part of their childhood. And for many there is a longing to return to the way things were – whatever that means. Further, as a Christian, I certainly understand its significance. But because I do, I find myself restraining my frustration from those that get angry this time of year. It seems obvious that our responses should be joyful and grateful.

The other day while standing in line at Barnes and Noble, I heard a couple of people venting about how terrible all the tacky lights on people’s trees inside and outside.   One noticed the book I was holding was spiritual and a conversation began. Wouldn’t you know it – they were fellow Christians. “What has happened to this holiday?” the one asked me.  I tried consoling them by saying, “Well, what do you expect when you borrow from pagan traditions?” but that only seemed to upset them further. Really, what do you say? “Yeah, you know what Leviticus says about that mixing colors on trees.” or “That’s why I stopped celebrating the coming of Jesus.”. To fit in, I guess I should have said, “That’s why this country is going straight to hell. Why when I was growing up, everyone celebrated Christmas and only used red and green lights, like Mary and Joseph did.  And then we’d all go and build a church, and then an orphanage, and then a Christian ice cream parlor.  After we were done, we’d drink some hot chocolate (at the ice cream parlor) then go caroling in the nursing homes in Antarctica. Those were the days.”

I couldn’t help but think they were snobby. To retaliate, I didn’t invite them to our Christmas Eve services (Yeah, what’s up? Who’s snobbier now? ;-)

Someone else had made passing comment to me regarding the title of a message that I was going to preach, “Incarnation and Imagination: What Elf, Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Gospel of Luke can Teach Us About Christmas”.  (See all I gained from Pete Enns.  I know this reference only works for a few people). Anyway, it was for our Second Mile service which is a monthly Saturday night service geared for those in their 20’s and 30’s. Unfortunately we had to cancel the service because of the snow but it was probably going to me my best message ever. Now we’ll never know. Anyway, I am sure this person was just making conversation with me and it was not an attempt to critique the title but the comment implied that it wasn’t suitable for a holiday so sacred. I was like, “What’s wrong with the Gospel of Luke?”.

Again, I thought that was a bit snobby. To be spiteful, I think next year I will add National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to the title. (That’s how we roll in Montvale. Shove that in your stocking. ;-)

Although I give a lot of evidence to the contrary, I can be a pretty serious and reflective person. I love Christmas. I love its meaning. I love its beauty and I love much of what surrounds it, including the cheesy decorations, odd characters, and some really hard to sing carols. What I despise is when we take the peripherals of it too seriously.  I suppose I am sensitive to that because that used to accurately describe me.

There was a time where anything that did not scream “holy, Holy, HOLY!” seemed like an attempt to cheapen Christmas to me.  I really felt I was honoring God more by “guarding” the sanctity of the holiday if I condemned the non-sacred elements of it.  All I could talk about was the commercialization of the holiday and how it had lost its high place in the American landscape.  And while I was always annoyed of when someone would call Santa, Satan, it bothered me that kids wrote letters to the fat man as opposed to offering prayers to the Almighty One.

I am not sure what exactly the turning point for me was but it had a lot to do with observing the time of Advent.  I know this now – taking the time to prepare my heart for Christmas allowed me to take in more of the joy of the holiday.  It allowed me to look at the rich and beautiful meaning of Jesus’ coming and it offered me a healthier way of celebrating it.  It even opened my eyes to enjoying our feeble attempts of demonstrating our happiness.  I found myself not taking everything about it so seriously, yet still loving God more for the purpose of His coming.  It’s probably not a coincidence that I stared loving the movie Elf.  To me, Elf is not just a hilarious character played by Will Ferrell but also the child-like response of the innocent in love with the amazing.  (And yes, Ferrell is hilarious).

We shouldn’t take every treat every aspect of our spirituality so seriously. Indeed, humor can degrade important matters but it’s also used in celebration. For example, a birthday party. Because we cannot always hire carolers to sing on our front lawns all day (although that would help unemployment), we hang up lights. Because the human heart cannot literally talk about Jesus all day, we create characters like Santa (based off a Saint that provided for orphans), Rudolph (based off a children’s story of acceptance) and Buddy (who I think is based off a monk in the 4th century who was raised by … ok, I’m making that one up) but to help remind us to keep the “holiday spirit”. Because the lighting and relighting of the advent wreath at some point loses its beauty (and becomes a potential fire hazard), we watch the Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street. And yes, a twenty foot blow-up Homer Simpson is now part of Christmas and according to some neighborhoods, he was a part of the Magi.

No one will have any trouble convincing me that some have removed Jesus totally from Christmas, but a few things are worth mentioning here. One is that Jesus would not respond with anger and frustration but instead with grace and love. Two, we Christians remove Jesus from His own holiday when we fight over Christmas rather then just celebrate and graciously share it.  And lastly, Christmas can never be taken away. Its redemptive meaning are for all those who dare to come from wherever they are and celebrate.


  1. Just as a side comment, I think Jesus response of “grace and love” would depend greatly on who it was he was responding to. :-)

  2. Adam! Hope you and your family had a great Christmas.
    Good point. It’s always been interesting to me that Jesus used His harshest words to those closest to Him and to those who believed they had it figured out.

  3. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I really don’t care that my atheist aunt and uncle have effectively removed EVERYTHING religious from their house (odd seeing Christmas decorations with not even an angel…). I don’t expect them to. It’s not their belief. In that case, neither should Macy’s be required to wish me a Merry Christmas, their a secular business there to make money, not a religious point. I expect Christians to celebrate the Christian aspect of Christmas, and they do it in different ways. Jesus would be pretty ticked at them for not celebrating Christmas (religious, Pharisees, etc.), though I don’t think he’d care about my aunt and uncle, he’d have a scotch with them and share a lot of grace.

    Sorry for ranting on your blog. Hope you guys are all doing well Tim, and that you had a great Christmas as well.

  4. I think it is pretty obvious that people just aren’t keeping the Kris (Kringle) in Christmas. They should have more Santa-like joy. :)

Speak Your Mind