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I Hate Christmas
I know it’s anathema for someone to admit disliking Christmas. It’s even worse for someone in ministry, since throughout much of the season of Advent, we’re trying to infuse a sense of meaning into the event. And yet, for me, it’s true.

Let me say here at the beginning that it’s not the coming of the child that I hate. Advent and Christmas are filled with significance. The focus on repentance and incarnation is important for me. The story (in Luke’s gospel) of God breaking forth into the world through the most unlikely people in the most unlikely way is profound. The theological significance of the season is great.

I hate what Christmas has become for many of us.

I hate the capitalistic, consumeristic, market driven, retail enhancing emphases. The notion of gift giving (first perpetuated by a saint that we’ve perverted into a roly-poly ball of joy) is good. In it’s simplist form, the emphasis on putting aside self to give to others is a great lesson of life and faith. But we have taken a good thing and “improved” on it to the point where the Christmas shopping season ceases to be a joy. The crowds, the hype, the marketing blitz goes out, and suddenly we have crowds running over women at Walmart in their push to get the $29 dvd player.

I hate the endless schedule of activities which cause us to burn the candle at both ends, and lose the wonder of the season. When we can’t find time to get the tree up (a reality in our household), then we have a problem. And unfortunately, the church doesn’t help with our own endless schedule of special activities and Christmas parties. It’s almost as if we don’t really want to wait and prepare. No, we want to have lots of “mini-Christmas’s,” one after another until we’re ready for the real one to be over with.

Is this really why God came into the world? Does this event of a birth to a poor country girl and her carpenter husband in a shack behind a hotel really have anything to do with what Christmas has begun?

Of course, some will say that I’m just a Scrooge for thinking this way. Some may think that I have no sense of wonder, no ability to experience awe. Some may think that I am so out of touch with my inner child that I can’t truly relate with the season.

It may be true, yet I don’t think I’m alone. When I sit with folks over a cup of coffee and we both bemoan the advertising blitz, the endless schedule, the lack of enthusiam, I know I’m not alone. What have we done with this amazing event of incarnation? How do we get back in touch with Emmanuel–God with us?

I think it’s possible. But it takes work. And that is why Advent is beginning to grab me. To focus on prayer and fasting and repentance in the midst of the lights and glitz and the sweet confections is a statement that we won’t let the tyranny of Christmas rule our lives any more. By focusing on the coming of Christ, we move away from the coming of Santa, and move the season from drudgery to joy as we prepare for the birthday party of God. Christmas for me then becomes a great party — filled with great wine and good music and wonderful laughter.

I’ve been pretty down about the season. But then I live into Advent, and I am given hope.

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