Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three Christmases The first two are easy; the third is a fearsome challenge to us all

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

The First Christmas

American Christians have three holiday celebration options. The most obvious is the secular option: The Christmas of Santa and Society. There's no escaping it unless you become a hermit or hide your head in the ground. Like fish in water we are immersed in its delightful sights, sounds and fragrant scents emanating from evergreen and kitchen.

This is the Christmas of mistletoe and holly, of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and stockings hung by the chimney with care. It's the season for eggnog and fruitcakes, office parties and feasting. It's Deck the Halls and dreaming of a White Christmas. It's the time for jingle bells and Silver Bells, for jolly old St. Nick and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Its bottom line is measured mostly by commercial sales and profits. Join the shopping frenzy and you can understand why it sometimes leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. Its upside is that it can be so much fun, especially for little children. Its downside is that it can distract and keep us from something far better. Like a narcotic, it can numb us to our deeper needs and blind us to the season's larger meaning. Sadly, it is the only Christmas some ever know.

The Second Christmas
A second holiday option we can call The Christmas of Faith and Family. This is the Christmas of candlelight, Silent Night and O Holy Night. It's the Christmas of caroling, cantatas and children's charming pageants where everything that can possibly go wrong usually does. It's the Christmas of family gatherings and traditions.

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