My wife is typically cold. She starts to thaw only when the temperatures reach about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In a catalog, I discovered a hand cream which was supposed to cause your hands to warm. On a lark, I purchased it for my wife.
She tried it. Didn’t work. I brought it to my office for me to use. Doesn’t work on me, either. Last Friday, I rubbed some on my hands and about ten minutes later, without thinking about it, went to the bathroom. I started to get warm. REALLY warm. Apparently it does not work on one’s hands nearly as well as it works…elsewhere. ‘Bout like Ben-Gay in the jockstrap! Unfortunately, we only have public restrooms, and I thought it would be a mite bit inappropriate to be discovered with my pants around my ankles, splashing away at the sink so I sweated it out. Literally.
I told this tale to some family members, and one brother turned to another brother, saying, “Remember that time you were cutting wood, and you did not know you had touched poison ivy?” Nothing more needed to be said. We all got the picture immediately—recalling the incident with howls of laughter.
I’ll bet any reader who had a family gathering over the past month also had short snippets of statements which would mean little to an outsider, but bring back overwhelming memories and associations to each of the participants.
“Yeah, just like your fishing…”
“…As good as Grandma’s pie…”
“Uncle Ted was so scared, he arrived early!”
Sure, an outsider may get a flavor of the meaning, due to the context, but to the insider participants, the words and the pictures they bring to mind provide a fuller and richer portrayal the outsider could never quite completely appreciate.
I know at times people may read what I write, and bemoan I am not accurately painting Christianity. Or I use too broad a brush. Or I push it out beyond limits it was designed. Can I remind you that I was an insider? I know the catch-phrases, the histories, the nuances. I know the rituals, the steps, the backgrounds.
I also know the excuses, the justifications and the rationalizations.
“Put Christ back in Christmas.” Please. I know how much “Christ” is IN Christmas for the vast predominance of Christians.
It means performing a play or Cantata. For other Christians. It means gathering food, and perhaps sponsoring a family. But only through a Christian organization, of course, and sponsoring a “deserving” family. It means going to Church on the Sunday before Christmas, and (if one is dedicated enough) the Christmas Eve service. It means having a Nativity scene on the Television Stand, and being indignant one is not at the Courthouse. It means reading Luke 2 after watching “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
What it does not mean is doing without. It is not a holiday in which Christianity rises with one accord and demonstrates to the world the extent to which their claim of Christ’s gift of himself is appreciated by giving to the point of sacrifice.
Oh sure, a Christian gives—but to the point of doing without? How many Christians did not have desert at their meal, ‘cause they had given so much they could not afford it? How many Christians reading this blog did without presents so that others could have theirs?
I am now an outsider; looking in. And what I see is the “Christ” most Christians put in Christmas is not very much. Like us outsiders, Christians get together with families and friends, eat too well and too rich, exchange gifts we don’t need, and enjoy the festive spirit.
They may add a program—but is it that different from a tradition of seeing “A Christmas Carol”? They may add a reading—but is it different from a tradition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? They may put a bit more in the plate—just like we give a bit more to Salvation Army since it is right there.
Am I too tough on Christianity? I think not. I have been inside. I know the difference. Having now celebrated three Christmases on the outside, I am fully realizing how little Christ is in Christmas. How Jesus is not the reason for the season.
Only I am seeing it is not the secularists removing Him—it is the Christians themselves.