Sunday Post ~ "Our finest gifts we bring (pa rum pum pum pum) . . . "
A few years ago, I waited eagerly for a television special documentary called "Christmas in Bethlehem," in which, I thought, I would get to see how the birth of Christ is celebrated in the holiest, most reverent way imaginable. When the show finally aired, I was deeply disappointed. There, at the birthplace of my Lord and Savior, the faithful set up little tchotchke booths. They sold all manner of tacky souvenirs. At the appointed hour, there was a fireworks display. I don't know what I was expecting, exactly, but it wasn't that. I wanted to see something better, something higher, something somehow superior to that carnival atmosphere. I confess, I judged those people harshly.
But the more I thought about it, the more I understood the celebration there. For those who believe, the Christmas story truly is The Greatest Story Ever Told. What do we humans have, what can we possibly do, to make our celebration of the story a fitting tribute to its meaning? We can't put a Star of Bethlehem in the sky. We can't dispatch angels and a multitude of heavenly host, singing praise from above a stable. So we do what we can. In our primitive, limited human way, we say, "WOO-HOO!" by pulling out from boxes, bags, closets, garages, the happiest, most joyful things and stuff that we have. Sentimental tchotchkes, twinkling lights, decorated trees (and dogs). We make and share the best things we can think of, to eat and drink.
And most importantly, we try to bring out the best that we have inside us. We talk about having a "spirit" that we may not think too much about having, the rest of the year. It's a spirit that encourages us to "adopt" children or families less fortunate than we, and go shopping with their wish lists in hand. It's a spirit that encourages us to forgive, to reconcile with family, to tolerate people we may label intolerable the rest of the year. It's a spirit that asks us to pause and consider how to live these days in peace and good will.
I like to imagine that God is delighted with our primitive attempts at acknowledging this occasion, the way a parent is delighted by a kindergartener's handmade gift. If you don't believe, as I do, that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," there is still plenty to celebrate. I wish you a joyful celebration of the knowledge that somehow, somewhere, love and truth and hope entered our world, and abide with us still.
file under: &Sunday Post