It's been a while since I posted, partly because I'm nearing the end of my semester and partly because it's that time of year when we all have way more things to do than time to get it all done. It's the Christmas season, and if you want to believe the retailers, it actually started more than a month ago, before Halloween! Every year many of us take the time to do all the appropriate activities - buying gifts for family & friends, Christmas parties (at work, school, church, clubs, etc.), decorating our homes inside and out, baking cookies, and sending Christmas cards - often to people with whom we've had no other contact throughout the year. Why do we do it all?! Some people honestly take this season to reflect on the people in their lives and want to do something to show appreciation and love, but I honestly wonder if that's the majority. I wonder if most of us don't just do these things every year because it's tradition - something we've always done and will continue to do without really thinking about why we are doing it. Do you know why you crawl out onto your roof to hang lights every year? Is it for some great purpose or is it to compete with the neighbor down the block? Or, gulp, is it to proclaim ourselves as Christians to the rest of the world, or even to show how much of the Christmas spirit we have?
People talk about having Christmas spirit, but what does that mean exactly? Does it mean feeling love for our fellow man or does it mean we buy things for peeople? Does it mean that we really care about the suffering other people may be going through or does it mean we do some charity and consider it checked of our list for the next year? What is the Christmas spirit? I recently saw the KC Repertory Theater production of A Christmas Carol - a Kansas City tradition from what I've been told, and I liked it. I didn't love it though, and everyone else was raving about it. Why did I only feel mediocre about it? I've been trying to figure it out and decided that it's not really about the theater company and the way they performed it - it was really an impressive production. Rather, I think it's a problem I have with the story in general. I know it's a classic, and I admit that I watch it every year, but I'm starting to question the legitimacy of Scrooge's conversion. I'm a little wary about even talking about it, because the story is highly regarded in our culture, but what was it that really motivated Scrooge to change his ways? Did he finally understand his own broken spirit and learn to heal or was he simply scared of dying alone? Did he learn how to love and be loved or just how to fit in with people so they would show up at his funeral?
Questioning this story and Scrooge's motivations also makes me questions other conversion experiences. Do people really believe in God and Jesus because they understand the love that is shared or is it because of fear of hell if they don't? I'm always leery of people who preach hell and damnation because I'm concerned that conversions that come out of those experiences are based on fear rather than of love and acceptance. They are still in a selfish mode of thinking, professing belief because it will mean a reward for themselves, rather than helping people here and now in this world simply for love of the other. I have to stop here and get on with the rest of my life, at least for the next two weeks of school, but I hope this has at least caused you to think about what you do, what you say you believe and why. I also hope that when you're buying Christmas gifts and doing all the other holiday things, you take time to appreciate your life and think about you need vs. what you want vs. other people's needs and wants. I also hope you all have a Merry Christmas - whether you buy into it or not.