Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Christmas Story

Still again, if we want to recapture Christmas, we have to first discover how we lost it. And one of the ways in which we have lost Christmas is by believing our culture when it tells us that Christmas is a feeling.

Most of us, some time this month, will encounter a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a loved one who will say something like this, "It just doesn't feel like Christmas this year." Or "Christmas, yeah - not feelin' it." 

And it won't be for lack of trying. We throw decorations all over everything. Our light posts are wrapped in tinsels, our porches decked out in lights. There are trees in every window, glistening through dark curtains as the sun sets early. Just about every store has Santa somewhere, a few reindeer out in the yard. Big, fake presents are wrapped with giant, perfect bows (quite unlike anything you'd ever see under any of our trees). Christmas music blares from overhead public address systems, blasting Rudolph and Santa and Frosty the Snowman into our ears. And that weird little fake frost and snow covers the windows because, gosh darnit, it has to at least look like it might be a white Christmas. 

Yet, someone will still say - it just doesn't feel like Christmas this year. 

You know what? They're right. It doesn't feel like Christmas this year, no matter how much we cover it in Christmas clothing.

Because Christmas isn't a feeling.

It's a story.

And if this Christmas "feels" a little empty to you, it's because the story's been overshadowed by the sensation of it all. If you want to get your Christmas back, you have to turn the page.

See, we've bought into this lie that our culture has told us that Christmas is that time of year that's supposed to make us feel good. But as we've seen, most persons aren't feeling good at Christmas. They're feeling stressed, burdened, burned out, and ready to skip the whole thing entirely. And who could really blame them? If the entire point of Christmas is to give us a time of year to "feel" good, then certainly, we should skip all the hubbub if skipping it is what makes us "feel" good. 

But Christmas isn't about good feelings; it's about good news. And good news always comes in stories. 

Think about it. If you watch the news and see something that makes you feel warm and tingly all over, it is because that something is firmly rooted in a good story. It is one thing to hear that three children will be receiving new bicycles this Christmas; it is another thing entirely to hear that these three children are cancer survivors, celebrating their first Christmas in remission. The former may evoke a Christmas feeling, what with the giving of gifts and all, but the latter evokes a Christmas story. The difference between the two is immense.

And that's what we're talking about. We're talking about a Christmas that has lost its story. We're talking about a Christmas that has become too wrapped up in bows and presents and carols to remember a baby, a promise, a Christ. Something about it feels disconnected, feels disjointed. Like something essential is missing from this Christmas "feeling." In all our attempts to make sure that we have a "good" Christmas, we've forgotten that at its very heart, Christmas is good. Because it's good news. Because it's a good story. 

Not a good feeling.

So if you want to recapture Christmas this year, step out of the sensation. Get away from the Santas and the reindeer and the snowmen and the lights; turn down the music. And head toward Bethlehem, down the unbeaten path, by the light of the star that guides the way. There, unto us, a child is born.

It's a story you've just got to hear. 

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