I’m going to bet that by the time I hit “publish”, this will have been revised no less than 968 times. I simply have too much swirling around up there to put together a solid train of thought. Perhaps you might want to get a pencil and paper, these ideas might be best diagrammed.
First, like a recipe, I’ll offer the main ingredients that prompted such thought:
a) Advent conspiracy at both St. Paul’s and Journey, (challenging us to worship fully, spend less, give more, love all). Followed immediately by fellow traveler’s questions: WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
b) The children went to bed early and the husband is “serving” the youth at a hockey game, leaving me a string of solitudous hours to catch up with my bloggy friends.
So in my perusing of blogs, I came across a recipe for bread (something I cannot seem to resist in any form) called “Advent Spiral” bread. Then I saw another activity combining the words Advent and Spiral. I have celebrated nearly 30 Christmases and I cannot recall a single spiral. What was this tradition they speak of? After a quick googling, I found it to be a practice Waldorf educators have latched onto, also giving it an additional non-orthodox symbolism (you know, to be fair and not leave anyone out of the party. I decided that the wreaths that have donned our doors is a similar-enough version, specifically the Advent Wreath with the lighting of candles each week. It does seem that these spirals (or gardens, to some, but don’t be fooled – it’s a rock garden) are often times created by having children, holding lit candles, form the shape of the spiral and it’s (I quote) “magical” or “heavenly.” I find the kids wearing torn sheets at the pageant quite delightful, so I’m sure the same can be said about holding candles. As the Emergent movement will tell you, anything is more spiritual if there’s a candle involved.
I’m adding a bit too much detail because I’m not even close to my point. But perhaps another person suffered perplexity regarding the spiral.
So, the addition of the less-orthodox meaning to the spiral made me reflect on many of the Christmas traditions around me. For as much introspection as I find myself practicing, rarely do I contemplate why I do what I do when it comes to Christmas tradition.
So, I googled “pagan traditions at Christmas.” And, if everything on the Internet is true like I’ve been told it is, then everything about Christmas is based upon a Roman god. They celebrated (for several days on end) complete excess in food, drink and sex, and according to one [very angry] source, it ended with a human sacrifice and there was a mention of cannibalism. The author led me to believe that this is the root of making gingerbread men, because “human cookies” were a regular part of the feast. Eww.
Then there is the tree and greenery, the red and green candles… all fertility markers [insert joke about author here]. Oh, and the most obvious – the Jesus Birthday Myth. Tales from Yore have it that the Christians added in the birthday thing to try to gank the holiday from the Roman pagans. I do recall a seminary professor hypothesizing a spring DOB. Most scholars agree that there’s no reason to put it to the 25th, except that there was already a great party going on and we wanted to Jesus invited.
I fear I might be treading some irreverent waters. Perhaps because I was swimming in lakes of it earlier in my “research”. Give me a little grace. Or toss me a floatie.
The next series of blogs posed the question, “should Christians celebrate Christmas?” which beholds a delicious level of irony. The basic premise being, if Christmas is a pagan holiday and not even really about Jesus, then mixing in will somehow contaminate our religion, witness or personal well being. Sadly enough, there’s a population of anti-Christians who use this as fuel to their hatred-fire and attribute the whole lot of us at ignorant. Sad, sad.
Allow us to return full-circle (or spiral, as you will), to the questions posed: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? My knee-jerk is… nothing. But everything. I’m not yanking down the greenery. And I’ll relish the Christmas mornings that we spend at home as a family, examining the stockings. I’m not willing to give the day away to work or meaningless activity simply because it’s “not Jesus’ actual birthday.”
When Moses took off his shoes at the burning bush, it wasn’t because the dirt beneath his feet was made of a special equation to make it holy. It was holy because Moses opened his eyes and heart to see it that way. God’s presence illuminated a tree and Moses attached meaning to it.
Holy moments aren’t created because of a special marker of time; holy moments are created by an awareness of a Holy presence. On a slightly larger scale, holy days aren’t caused into being by the calender companies; as a people we have attached meaning to certain days and seasons and we wish to celebrate that meaning year after year. I don’t find it coincidence that we attach incarnation meaning – God with us, right here, right now – to a holiday that formerly stood for godlessness.
Most of the Christmas cards use the same words – peace, hope, love, joy, family… and to each of us, these things are valued – no matter our religious practices. But for me and my family, those things exist because God stepped down and made His presence active in our lives. It’s true of everyday, but on the 25th of December, I choose to make a point to celebrate it unabashedly and relentlessly.
And with excessive eating only to rival the pagan holiday from which it shares a spot on the calendar.