Christmas: The most wonderful time of the year.

When you work in a church, there is always good food to be found. My office is a repository of leftover goodies, well wishing and thankful church members, and the occasional jelly bean. Once a year a special Christmas elf brings me Cashew Brittle, and I immediately go through the office looking for unwanted bits from my neighbors.

But this isn't a post about the goodness of caramelized sugar. This is a post about the sweet sugary festive approach people take to Christmas. Christmas comes once a year - from a strictly Christian standpoint, we follow the Christian religious calendar (looks strikingly like the "real" calendar and is arguably the basis for the Gregorian calendar we follow) and go through a cycle based on Jesus' life.

It goes as so:
  • Season of Advent - This is the beginning of the Christian Year. This is a time of preperation for the coming of Christ. (where we are now)
  • Season of Epiphany - Beginning with commemorating the coming of the Magi, this season awakens us to the realization of Christ in our lives.
  • Season of Lent - Starts with Ash Wednesday and prepares us for Easter.
  • Easter - as a "season" we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and get ready for...
  • Pentecost - the observance of the Holy Spirit coming anew after Easter. The official "birthday" of the Church.
  • Kingdomtide - the Christian year where we focus on Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom of God. Summertime, basically.
  • You might notice I didn't cover the entire calendar. And we have an incredibly original name for all the time that doesn't fall conveniently into these seasons - "Ordinary Time". I'm not making this up. You could say the calendar revolves around two cycles - Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost. With the important holidays (Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday) marking the transitions.
Phew! Now that I have that out of the way, I can make the point I'm working towards:

In Christmas time, we make everything sweet and tasty, colorful and laced, for what is undoubtedly the most terrifying event in human history.

Sure. He's just a baby. But Mary, did you know? That your baby boy...well, you'd have to know something was up since you got pregnant without ever having sex.

Sure. Christmas is a happy time. But you cannot look at the manger without the looking back up and seeing a grisly end for Jesus on the cross.

Sure. Santa loves Children. But the very nature of what is happening when Jesus (read: GOD) comes to dwell among human beings is nothing short of incomprehensible and fantastic.

I truly believe all the fan-fair, gift-giving, and "most wonderful time of the year" stuff started as the real deal. People were graciously moved to change their world for the better because of the hope that comes with God's greatest intervention. But eventually instead of trying to comprehend/deal/expect the coming of Christ, people started being gracious for the sake of the tradition. And Jesus says a thing or two about tradition for tradition's sake.

Of course, by now, you've figured out that what I call "terrifying" is actually quite wonderful. But many of us who are so ready to accept baby Jesus with open arms also simply can't accept what he's come to do.

Turn your world upside down. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The comfortable will be made very uncomfortable and the oppressed will be released. For many, if they stopped and thought about what it really means for Jesus to show up, I think it would be terrible. I'd have to watch my business practices, quit cheating on my wife, and embrace my neighbor regardless of the skin color. Change is scary, and that's exactly why Jesus came. Remember, those things continue only because I fail to let go of my own reality for God's reality. If I could do that, I'd find things a lot more fulfilling than anything this world has to offer.

Please, enjoy the Holidays. Eat your figgy pudding. Sing the songs. But much like we can do with the Resurrection, please try not to sterilize it.