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Christmas Follow-Up 28 December 2009

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I’d meant to write up some warm wishes for everyone a couple days ago, but Christmas came and went, mostly spent on the slopes or in the hot tub. This was as it should have been I suppose, but I’ve been owing you blog entries as well. I promise that the future will hold more skiing-related stuff, too, although for the moment at least, I hope you’ll bear with one more post outside the typical topics for this blog.

Anyway, I’d been meaning to ask a few questions about Christmas’s religious roots. Specifically, I’ve been wondering if you, dear readers, really believe that Jesus arrived in this world the son of the virgin Mary. For all the fuss Americans (myself included) make about the lights and trees and presents and family members and friends and… all of that, the actual meaning of Christmas receives relatively little reflection. Yes, I know that this is a tired theme for anyone who’s listened to the religious right, watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, or who followed that whole “War on Christmas” bonanza a few years back. So please trust me when I say I’m not looking to head down any of those paths, because I understand that academically most everyone knows that Christmas celebrates JC’s birth.

What I’m actually after is whether you believe that Mary carried Jesus to term as the product of divine… fertilisation(?). Evidently, 61% of Americans hold that indeed she did. Interesting. And then, to get a head start on an Easter post, do you believe that Jesus died, rose again, and later ascended to Heaven? Have you as a Christian or non-Christian ever truly thought out the ramifications of your considered responses?

I ask because I have almost always found it helpful to think through answers to questions like these since the process itself seems to clarify the issue. That is, you must say to yourself, “Yes, God grew Jesus inside Mary as part of His divine plan for humanity,” which differs markedly from, “Mary conceived a son whom church fathers believed to be God’s earthly manifestation.”   To say the former is to acknowledge the act of faith necessary. The same holds true for the Resurrection, where at the very least, evangelicals, must say, “I believe that Jesus rose from dead, appeared to thousands (and then S/Paul), and then ascended, bodily, to heaven. I do not believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven.”

At a time like Christmas when most thought turns to gift-giving and merry-making, it is best to say these things aloud. Perhaps not in public, but aloud nonetheless. Just to reaffirm or deny them. The physical action prompts the rationale and doesn’t allow for the tacit acknowledgements that cut off reflection. Try it, and maybe you’ll discover a bit more about your holiday convictions.

Lead-Up to Christmas 22 December 2009

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You’d think that ignoring the Christmas season in a resort community would be all but impossible. But strangely, we’re just days away and it still has yet to sink in. Home Alone and beer don’t lend much to the Christmas spirit when the apartment looks almost as it did when we moved in several weeks ago. What gives?

In part, I’d imagine that the Christmas season depends not only on its commercial side — the storefronts and advertisements and Christmas-themed Office episodes — but on the interplay among family and friends as well. We bake cookies, we send cards, we see friends again for the first time in months, and while skewering the consumerism that bloats the holiday always comes off as trite , I really do doubt that without the human factor we could sustain any of it. Christmas’s commercial side shapes our expectations, the movies and ads giving us the ideal forms — what Christmas should be here in the west. But we come home for holidays to connect with the important folks in our lives, not to chase baubles and bunting.

To those of you I won’t see this Christmas, then, I hope you’ll understand when I say I feel I’ve missed out. Despite the lights, despite the carols and the wreaths, it doesn’t feel like Christmas around here because for the first time in my life I know I won’t be seeing all of you over a Christmas/Holiday/Winter Break. So, Michael and Jack, if you read this blog, include some wine and chess in your holiday plans.