I recently heard a Jewish comic give her take on attending a Christmas mass celebration.
She said that she was surprised that she knew so many of the songs. She was delighted that bread and wine were served to all, and that everyone lit candles and seemed so happy.
She joked that the songs she grew up hearing were more morose, basically a few notes repeated over and over which were sung to lyrics she summarized as “They have tried to kill us all. They will still try to kill us all.” She said in contrast that she found Christianity to be such a happy religion.
I found her insights refreshing and well…wistful. Her words represented Wistful thinking for me. Christianity is now such a catch all word representing groups who often have VERY different takes on what it means to be Christian.
One thing I do know. That Jesus himself was a happy leader when his followers allowed him to be. He lived his life in celebration, even recognizing that sacrifice and sorrow were part of his journey—our journey.
I read a piece recently in the Christian Century Magazine (November 2019) by Shelly Rambo. This thought provoking piece is titled “How Christian Theology and Practice are being Shaped by Trauma Studies.” She writes how Christianity fails people when we are taught that everything is just supposed to be happy, even after experiencing violence. “Put a bow of faith around it, and get on with your life” does not serve those who have suffered tremendous loss. The author discusses eloquently that trauma is real, it runs deep, it cannot be served by platitudes. She points out that three of the four gospels worked their way into a happy ending, while the book of Mark leaves the followers of Christ weeping, discouraged, raw. For Mark, the story ends there. With a traumatic and nonsensical death.
I think about that a lot this season. I have friends who have departed this life, and friends who are experiencing the loss of health, the loss of hope for a happy ending. I remember them.
And still this I believe—a baby came to us, born under starlight in a manger with straw for his bed. A tender young mother and a very kind carpenter were among the first to hold him. And he grew in their care until the Word became flesh and taught us how to live, how to love, for however long we have.
May this Christ-mass remind you too of our Lord—who wanted wine and bread for everybody, who wanted his last act to be a party, and who was willing to start it all being small, just a little human being, full of Heavenly hope.
May all your prayers, however small, however much covered by donkey dung and straw, rise to meet the celestial celebration of the true Christmas, as we too walk in hope toward that distant star.
Amen and Amen.