Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas--not living up to the hype

The story the Christians tell (and of course now we are speaking of meta story, which feels inherently less true. Nevertheless ...) is that the big deal about Christmas is that God (that is the one supreme God who made everything) sends his son who is born in Bethlehem, and whose is going to do something rather large--something along the lines of ... save the world, or make things better, or fix it, or ... what have you.

Let me see here .... from Luke's version ...

He'll reign over the house of Jacob forever. He'll have the throne of his father David (probably not really that great of news for the Palestinians, actually, considering the story of David.)

He'll be called the Son of God (very possibly not that great of news either, depending on ... the nature of the God of whom he is the son)

Then there's the bit from Mary:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."

possibly not really that great of news for the Palestinians either, although filling the hungry sounds good. The Palestinians are definitely hungry.

Now we come to the real problem. The angel talking to the shepherds:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people

Then there's Simeon:

For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

I mean ... he *certainly* didn't fulfill the hype that most of these folks were thinking about--probably along the lines of Israel being independent again, out from under Roman rule, etc.

But way beyond that, it's been 2000 years, and the much *larger* hype put out by "the church" (and there's a big generalization for you) is just astoundingly ... unfulfilled. What good has the birth of Jesus done the world? I mean AIDS, war, nuclear arms race, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, starvation, sex trafficking, white phosphorous, cluster munitions, organized crime, genocide, child soldiers, slavery, people dying of *thirst* (for god's sake!), etc. etc.

*Maybe* I just got the story wrong? Maybe all this hype is overblown, and the ... "real" story doesn't really involve good news of any very large sort?

Maybe my expectations are too high. But the way people around here carry on...

Of course their carrying on *could* be more about ... trying to cheer themselves up in the darkest time of the year--something perhaps much older than the whole "christmas" thing--something about the solstice, something that makes a lot more sense, and which has had the trappings of some sort of "Christianity" fitted onto it in this culture, as it has no doubt had the trappings of other religions fitted onto it in other places and times.

Nevertheless, I have completely lost sight of any "good news" in the christmas story beyond that Jesus did some fairly kewl things while he was around, back in the day, and so it rocked that he was born.


Benjamin Ady said...

i think a bit of expectation lowering can be good, on all fronts - meta and littler - i love you
love meg

Karin said...

There's a lot of hype around Christmas it is true and there is probably a lot of hype in the Christmas story we read in the gospels. I'd certainly agree the church has hyped it up a lot too, and often for its own self-serving reasons. That's because the central message of Christmas is such a powerful one and people are always trying to exert power, influence and control over others, usually because they are afraid in some way.

Some people say Jesus didn't intend to start the Church, rather he tried to show Jews that God didn't want them to live lives constrained by petty rules and regulations, but he invited people to become generous as he is, to allow love to overcome all the fears in our lives and to live abundant lives, to coin a phrase. Not abundance in the sense of acquiring more and more wealth and possessions, but enjoying a life enriched by love and the pain that goes with love, by compassion and the grief that goes with compassion. I believe the difference Jesus makes is to encourage us to embrace life, enjoy all that is good in our lives and to do what we can to make other lives better. We won't always get it right. Sometimes we will veer in one direction more than the other, that is human. To despair too much can be dangerous, but if we are needy we shouldn't worry about a little self-indulgence if it heals us and helps us to be more able to help others in the long-term. Our celebrations at Christmas are also rooted in the pagan realisation that we need to be cheered up at this gloomy time of year.

This world has always been a mess and what people need when their lives are going badly is hope as well as assistance to get back on their feet. I think Jesus offers that hope, just as Buddha tried to show people how to stop being overwhelmed by despair caused by the suffering all around them. When the spirit of Jesus and Buddha and of all the rest who point to God's Way develops in people they are changed from being mostly selfish to gradually more aware of and concerned for the needs of others. This is the Good News at Christmas and all the rest of the year.

Fishpimp said...

You've lost sight of all kinds of things, but really, who hasn't? You're just more obnoxious in sharing your point ov view. But we love that about you. Merry Christmas you miserable bastard!!!