Although it seems early for anyone but eager children, over-eager shoppers, and already-weary program planners to think seriously about Christmas, I would like to present what I call my Christmas non-gift list. These are the things I don’t want for Christmas.
First, I don’t want less commercialization at Christmas. I have come to see buying and selling as a normal condition of our society. Like death and taxes, it will always be with us. The babyinfant Jesus was born into a very commercial world. His adult ministry was performed in the midst of rank commercialism.
He watched the temple abused by the money changers. He ejected a legion of devils from the man of the Gadarenes and sent them into a herd of swine. He was much aware that the village people were more concerned about their financial loss than the healing of the man. Jesus did not run away from commercialism or merely decry it.
I don’t want less commercialism, but I do want to know when its power is controlling my soul. I want the courage to resist the pressure to make endless card lists, gift lists, food lists, clothes lists, and activity lists more important than people and their needs. The latter was Jesus’ concern.
Second, I don’t want the mystery of God demystified. I don’t want the mystery of God incarnate reduced to a simple mathematical equation so that I can feed the data into a giant computer to find out why God loves sinful humanity, how God works in an individual’s life to bring awareness of forgiveness, or even why a person hungers to know God better.
I do not deny the longing that overcomes a person to reach out into the darkness to feel that God has skin or to hear an audible voice—to prove he is real by my senses. Yet to have the revelation of God completely analyzed and reduced to concrete terms would bring the meeting of God and humanity to the level of an encounter with the grocery checkout person.
Within each of us is a constant pressure to analyze and systematize what we cannot fully understand. Some preachers can’t resist hammering the great truths of the Scripture into three-point alliterative sermons or simple propositions, although I admit that sometimes they help.
The great sweep of God’s relationship to humanity from Genesis to Revelations is sliced into dispensations. The experience of Spirit of Christ’s indwelling the believers becomes a complicated diagram with circles and thrones and dots and arrows. Christ’s return shows up as a complicated chart with lines and curves.
All these may have their place at some time, yet to be able to systematize, organize, put into order, gives me a sense of power and control, whether it is a Christmas shopping list or God’s revelation to humanity. To systematize means control.
This Christmas I want to stand in awe and wonder with the shepherds and wise men at the glory of the God coming to earth in the form of a baby. I want to experience with Isaiah “the Lord high and lifted up,” very high up, higher than I can understand.
To demystify God is to do away with faith and worship and turn humanity into totally mechanical beings.
Third, I don’t want things seen to become the evidence of things not seen. In Hebrews 11 the apostle Paul writes that our faith-life is to be the evidence of the supernatural world – the things we cannot see with the physical eye. By faith we are to believe in Christ as Savior of the world. By faith we are to believe in his power to work through us.
I do not want jeweled crosses or lapel pins, badges and buttons, mottoes and posters, bumper stickers and banners, resolutions and church constitutions to become the evidence of the Christ-life.
Instead, this Christmas I pray that a cup of cold water for a thirsty person, visiting an hour with a lonely older person, the gift of a coat, peace where there is bloodshed and bombing, may be more clearly the “evidence of things not seen.”
Finally, this Christmas, in my 88th year, I do not want an end to questioning. I realize that often a person’s faith is judged valid to the extent that he or she accepts all ecclesiastical pronouncements without embarrassing questions. Too often a probing person makes others uncomfortable and is labeled “unspiritual” and out of order.
I believe we need more questioning about the church’s responsibility regarding racism, ageism, sexism, violence, and rank injustice of all kinds, not just about issues related to human sexuality. We need disturbing questions that rouse us out of our lethargy and a readiness to follow the Spirit’s leading in the answers.
Here ends my non-list. Blessed Christmas to all.