Posted by: smstrouse | December 8, 2011

Between Bah Humbug & A Holly Jolly Christmas

I used to hate Christmas. I know; how can I be a pastor and hate one of the THE biggest days of the Christian year? But I did. The Christmas story was one of the major things that just rubbed me the wrong way as I was beginning to confront traditional beliefs about Jesus. Reading the Bible literally was not making sense. And even though my seminary education had enlightened me on the subject of the virgin birth and other translation issues, I still took issue with what I thought of as a fabrication. I knew that for most of the people in my congregation at the time, the story was ‘true,’ and I felt like a hypocrite standing up front reading it to them.

Thank God for scholars like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg (The First Christmas) who made it feel OK to talk about biblical stories as myth – which doesn’t make them untrue, just not literal, which they were never meant to be anyway. I discovered that there are many people in the pews who are relieved to hear that they don’t have to ‘believe six impossible things before breakfast’ every time they enter the church. I know I am.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the ‘holly, jolly Christmas’ kind of person. But I’m not a Grinch anymore either. In discovering the message of the embodiment of the Divine in a human being just like me, I can appreciate my own humanity and my own connection to the Divine.  In taking away the necessity of believing in a full-up inn and a stable, I can see the connection of God with the poor, the homeless, the immigrant.  In the story of the coming of the magi, I can feel the wonder of a mystical star and an interfaith encounter.

Wow, I love Christmas! The real Christmas. I know I’ve said in earlier posts that I’d like to give Christmas over to the retailers and let us have Advent and Epiphany. But I guess I’m not so ready yet to give up. And I believe that there are many people out there who need to know that they don’t have to buy into the Wal-Mart version, nor do they have to think they’re supposed to suddenly be filled with Christmas cheer. Too many people suffer through the holidays because of what they don’t have or don’t feel.  Or they identify with the Grinch.

All I can say is, “I’ve been there.”  There are too many versions of the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ that just don’t cut it for me anymore. I’m so glad that I’m in a church that has a progressive outlook on this stuff. So I’m ignoring the ads, I’m doing a wonderful on-line Advent retreat, and I’m anticipating a fabulous Christmas Eve service.  And to top it all off, this year, in new appreciation of the Christmas story, I bought a Nativity set.  Joy to the World!!!

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Responses

  1. Well said, Susan. Thank you.

    Ralph

    Like

  2. This one’s going to be reprinted in the newsletter. It would be a criminal act for anyone to miss this message. IMHO (well, not so H)

    Like


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