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  • 33: Why All the Lights?

    Posted in ,
    December 25, 2006

    I dread putting up the Christmas lights. After a whole year, the wires somehow get so tangled up, and one of the bulbs has gone, but which one? I solved the decoration problem. The big flashy balls I hung on a tree outside our house two years ago are still there–just in time for Christmas!

    We put up lights because light is the defining theme of the season: the star shining over the stable; the glorious sky filled with singing angels; the fulfillment of the old prophecy about light shining in the darkness; Jesus as the light of the world.

    In that light we should note that Christmas is a time which reveals with blinding clarity the difference between the two competing notions of spirituality, monism and theism. In the Gospel accounts of Christmas, one cannot avoid the themes of human lostness, of Jesus as the only way, of the miraculous event of incarnation and eventual resurrection. These themes constitute the Christmas story. Without them, nothing makes sense. Little wonder, at this time of year, many attempt to put out the light. Examples of this vacillate between the sublime and the ridiculous.

    Rosemary Radford Reuther, the pagan–”Christian” theologian argues that the true essence of Christianity is when “flesh becomes Word,” that is, when Nature is perceived as divine. This pagan attempt to turn on its head the glorious Christmas message of the divine Word becoming flesh reminds me of a book by another Christian apostate I have just begun to read. The title, Not in His Image, is a deliberate over–turning of the biblical definition of who we are as human beings, “made in God’s image.” But back to Christmas. An Interfaith choir sings “Joy from the world.” The Chicago city officials ask organizers of a down town Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to disbar one of its sponsors, New Line Cinema, for fear that the ad for its film, “The Nativity Story,” might offend non–Christians. Someone noted, “If you cannot talk about Christ in a festival like this, it is tantamount to celebrating Lincoln’s birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln.”

    In Virginia, a public–school handout urges young children to attend a “Pagan ritual” to celebrate Yule, but a Christian Christmas is verboten. In essence, a government school bans a Christian celebration, but allows an openly pagan organization to proselytize the six–year–olds in its care. In San Diego, the time–honored “Christmas on the Prado,” that brings out countless thousands, has now morphed into “Balboa Park December Nights.” In California, we already have trouble with the idea of a White Christmas, for which we are only dreaming, but if we do away with Christmas, what is so special about December nights! Why not do it in February?

    The same anti–Christmas propaganda is just as active in Great Britain (and I imagine in many, if not all, of the countries to which this letter goes). Jeff Randall, a self–styled not–very religious journalist for The Telegraph writes a piece, “Christmas crucified by do–gooders.” His point? Christmas is not being attacked by the English Jews and the Moslems whose delicate consciences are the supposed reason for the non–season. On the contrary, every year he receives a “proper Christmas card” from the owner of his local curry house, who is a Muslim from Bangladesh. No, Christmas is being crucified, he claims, by the White, Anglo–Saxon Christian apostate liberals, who, under the pretext of multi–cultural sensitivity, are trying to re–brand Christmas as a kind of pagan “Winterval,” Thus eliminating from the cultural memory any notions of Christian theism, of which Christmas is such a powerful reminder.

    Nevertheless, at Christmas time, the wind is in our sails. The season, in spite of the naysayers, still broadcasts the Gospel in bright lights everywhere: on our trees; all over our homes, both in and out; in the decorations for office parties and down–town civic celebrations. It reminds us, and so we can remind our neighbors, of the very nature of Christianity as a luminous message of hope from the outside. “Joy from the world” brings darkness, for the world and our hearts are in a mess. If the true word came from our flesh, there would be no hope, since our flesh is opposed to God, the source of life and light. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The little baby in the feeding trough suggests our helpless human situation, unable to save ourselves. Christmas is joy to the world, for the baby is more than he appears. He is God in the flesh providing what we fleshly humans cannot provide for ourselves–reconciliation with our Maker and a sure hope beyond death.

    Only the Word of God, becoming flesh, dispels human darkness and turns on the lights.

    Here’s to a blessed and luminous Christmas!