Friday, December 15, 2006

Love Christmas Style

In wake of the brouhaha after a judge, being a judge, banned a Christmas tree from the lobby of the Jarvis Street courthouse, I just want to say that it isn't people like her, corporations who refer to Christmas carols as holiday songs for fear of the x-word, schools who rename Christmas pageants, nor the commercialization of Christmas that's threatening Christmas, it's us.

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Maybe because birthday parties are traditionally thought of as the domain of children, we have increasingly declared Christmas is for kids. But that forgets two things: that adults celebrate birthdays too and throw huge bashes on the 10s, and that only adults can fully appreciate the gift of Jesus and therefore what it means to express that gift.

When I was a child, I was struck with joy when I learnt that there was a being out there who loved me just as I am, and his name was Jesus. I learnt of him and the Old Testament bible stories as I grew up, but I understood him and his actions like only a child can, in other words not fully. I continued to study the bible and to learn about Jesus throughout my teens, and my understanding grew, but still, simply because of lack of experience and perhaps also because the brain is not fully developed until about age 20, I did not appreciate the fullness of his gift. It is only now, in my adulthood, that I am beginning to understand the enormity of his sacrifice and the kind of love that he offers -- not the schmaltzy sentimental love of a Disney movie, not the dishonest love of someone who just wants people to like them and to get along sans arguments, not the fake love of the kissy face set, but the honest love given without asking anything in return but expressing the kind of life one needs to lead in order to live that kind of love oneself. The kind of honest love that so overwhelms a person that it transforms one into being courageous enough to be the person God created you to be, to stay true to Jesus and to God no matter how much people or seemingly the universe punish you for it, to strive to understand the Bible better continually and to reflect on what that means in one's own life, and finally to express, even if only faintly, Jesus's kind of love to those who matter, usually friends and family, but unfortunately more often now the homeless, acquaintances, and clients, hence the rise in charity gifts where the tax receipt goes to the giver not the giftee, thus showing greater love to a stranger than the one you declare you love.

It is easy to love a child unconditionally (well, usually; some adults cannot), but much much harder to love a fellow adult in the way Jesus calls us to. And therefore it is easier to declare that Christmas is for kids, we have everything we need and so we don't have to get gifts, money is tight, work is demanding, there's too much to do to prepare for the 25th, in order to legitimately excuse ourselves from celebrating Jesus's birthday. We still call it Christmas, or the holiday for the even more squeamish, but we have morphed the day from that of expressing his kind of love one to the other into something that doesn't call us to sacrifice (time, money, ourselves), doesn't make us vulnerable to another person we don't quite trust, doesn't require us to think too deeply or greatly of the recipient either to figure out what gift will make them happy or that they are in need, and keeps us safe in our little cocoons. It's really sad. Imagine the joy if we let ourselves go and loved our fellow adult family and friends in the way we love the kids.

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