I'm really a pretty easy-going guy. I mean, you can get me riled up if you say the right (or wrong) thing. But generally, I try to see both sides of everything, so most of the time, anyway, I do let things slide. I don't decry how rock n' roll or TV are destroying our youth. Varying political issues can upset me, but not enough to be more politically active than just voting. Lots of things that upset other pastors or Christians, I just can't get all that worked up about.
For example, I never thought I'd become one of those people who get all grumpy at stuff like the commercialization of Christmas. I mean, I grew up with all the Christmas TV specials and made my lengthy list for Santa like every other typical kids in the seventies. It's always bugged to me a certain degree that people blow three months pay on a bunch of presents that mostly end up collecting dust, but normally, outside of the yearly critique in a sermon regarding how materialistic the holiday has become, I just let it go.
I took Xavier down to the Neil Armstrong Museum in Wapak tonight to the "Young Astronauts" program Aimee signed him up for last month. What do they do at "Young Astronauts"? Well, I asked him what he learned tonight, and his response was that yeast was a living organism, and he carried a picture of a cow he drew while he was supposedly learning about astronaut stuff. What yeast and cows have have to do with space, I have no idea, but then again, I never did all that well at science. It's probably beyond me.
(Also, I learned again that Xavie is a born "playa". Some little girl who was holding his hand pitched a fit that he was leaving and screamed out that she was going to call him later this week. This happens everywhere he goes, and he's five years old. I will now light myself on fire.)
Anyhow, I dropped him off, and since it's about a 20 minute drive to the museum from our house, I just popped over to a McDonalds down the street to get a cup of coffee and do an hour's worth of reading for my bible study. So, I get my coffee, sit down in some random booth, and begin to read. I don't know... 15 or 20 minutes passes by and I catch myself mindlessly singing to the Muzak they're playing in the restaurant:
Well the weather outside is frightful
but the fire is soooooo delightful
and since we've got nowhere to gooooooo
let it snow, let it snow, let it snooooooow.
Wait a minute, I wondered, what the heck am I singing? I put the book down, and start listening more consciously to the lyrics of the music, and then it hits me....
It's Christmas music.... on November 1st.
Sure enough, man, there I am in the House of Clown, and one by one they keep coming. Some horrible Mannheim Steamroller-esque version of "Carol of the Bells". A big band version of "Deck the Halls". Some diva's overwrought warbling of "Silent Night". Two different versions of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".
And there I sat, growing more incredulous by the moment. So, as I'm leaving, I did what I swore as a teenager schlepping roast beef at Rax I'd never do.... I went to talk to the manager.
Me: Yeah, are you the manager.
Manager: I sure am, how can I help you sir.
Me: Hey, I'm really not the kind of person to complain, and I hate myself for saying anything, but what's with the Christmas music in the dining room?
Manager: (smiling) It was on when I came in.
Me: But, it's November 1st. Aren't we jumping the gun a bit.
Manager: Have you seen the Downtown? The stores are getting out their Christmas stuff..
Me: (slightly agitated, but with a smile) But it was Halloween yesterday. I'm still eating Kit Kat bars my kids collected for Trick or Treat.
Manager: (big smile) I like Christmas music. It makes me happy.
Me: (wrinkling up my face) But we're already working Baby Jesus to death to sell all kinds of stuff for us on his birthday... does he really need to be hawking apple pies for McDonald's on November 1st? We're gonna wear him out.
Manager: (laughing, but looking slightly shocked) Well, I'll tell you what, if get enough complaints, I'll switch it to something else.
Me: Well, consider this to be a complaint. Maybe you could at least wait until the week of Thanksgiving.
Manager: Duly noted sir. If we get any more complaints, that's just what we'll do.
Note: Next time, I'm going to Arbys or Captain D's.
Now let me say this... before you get all mad at me for supposedly belittling Christ, that line, out a combination of frustration and a scathing wit that just sometimes works way too fast, just popped out of my mouth. It made every single crew member listening in on our conversation laugh out loud, and I think took two years off the life of an older woman standing next me waiting on a refill.
But, really, every year at Christmas time, isn't that what we're doing? Have we turned Jesus, who once was so incensed over money changing hands in the Temple, into the ultimate retail king?
I fear that's the case. We've turned Jesus' birthday into a second annual birthday for ourselves.
How ironic that we celebrate the Christ, who had no place to lay his head and held back nothing to sacrifice himself for the good and future of humanity, by spending trillions of dollars on things like waterproof shower radios (got one for my brother-in-law ten or twelve years ago), golf balls (my perennial gift to Unk and Brother Esquire), and underwear (which my Grandma Bucher got me every year). We've taken the goodwill and sense of grace that unfolds during that season, and turned it into, "Oh, I shouldn't have bought that ruby-studded porcupine for Aunt Mary, but what the heck... it's Christmas!"
What I'm going to do with this, I don't know. Years past, I'd just let it slide. But as the days I've been given to make some sort of difference pass me by, I'm not sure I can just sit back for the status quo this year.
Christmas is not our birthday.... and it's time we started thinking seriously about what that means in a world where are wondering what difference faith makes for a Christian.