Why I Love Christmas More Than Any Other Holiday

When I was a kid, every year we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I always identified with Charlie Brown, which should have been a dead give-away that depression would be a feature of my life in the future.  Anyway, A Charlie Brown Christmas is about Charlie Brown trying to find the Christmas spirit.  To do this, he tries to put on a Christmas play, which of course goes spectacularly wrong.

In frustration, he yells out "isn't there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"  At which point, Linus appears, and recites the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke (King James version):

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

In one sense, that is exactly what Christmas is all about.  But in another sense, that answer misses the point.  That is the story, but it lacks the crucial component of answering why we should care about a baby born 2,000 years ago in a far-off place.

Christianity, once you cut through all of the doctrines and politics and accumulations of two millenia, is a story of consolation and solidarity.  Life is wonderful, but it is also uncertain and scary and painful and bewildering.  People struggle and suffer and die, and it often seems hopeless to stand in the face of those realities.  And believing in God, or at least believing in a certain vision of God, doesn't really solve that problem.  The eternal, incorporeal, omniscient creator of the universe would seem to have little to say, or little care, about individual suffering.  I suppose thinking about this wholly transcending being might give one some perspective on one's suffering, but that perspective is only going to help so much.  Ultimately, you are still facing a bleak world on your own.

Christmas cuts through that.  This omniscient, transcendent creator of the universe cared enough about us, and about me individually, to enter the world directly.  And not in some grandiose display of power, but in the form of a baby.  A being who is utterly dependent for his very survival on others.  A being who can basically do nothing but cry and poop--that's the form the master of the universe willingly chose to take on.  And why?  To stand beside us, in solidarity.  After Christmas, we can never say that God doesn't understand what we are going through, or identify with our sufferings.

There is no place in the human experience that is foreign to God after Christmas.  Weakness, powerlessness, dependency, fear, pain; God has been there, God took them all on, voluntarily.  God can stand beside us, and give us comfort in our sufferings, because God suffered in the same way.

Christmas is about God's radical and comprehensive solidarity with God's people, with us.  A God who was willing to become the crying and pooping machine that is a newborn baby in order to better be able to stand beside us and comfort us--that is a God worth believing in.  That's a God that is going to be there when things are the darkest.  That's a God we can place our hopes in.

That promise, the promise of Christmas, is why I continue to be a Christian.  That's what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


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