Frederick Buechner Quote

Yesterday, I found this quote by Frederick Buechner over at InternetMonk. I thought it was quite powerful:

When a minister reads out of the Bible, I am sure that at least nine times out of ten the people who happen to be listening at all hear not what is really being said but only what they expect to hear read. And I think that what most people expect to hear read from the Bible is an edifying story, an uplifting thought, a moral lesson—something elevating, obvious, and boring. So that is exactly what very often they do hear. Only that is too bad because if you really listen…there is no telling what you might hear.

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Why I Don’t Participate In The ‘Christmas Wars’

Over at InternetMonk, there is quite an interesting guest post entitled, Why I Don’t Participate In The ‘Christmas Wars’. Or, at least it was interesting to me. The point of the article is to show that the Christmas season is really not that bad, even with the reality of its consumer commercialisation focus within the US (and now even other countries of the world).

The author springboards his thoughts from these familiar words found in the well-known Christmas song, Joy To The World:

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love…

The article goes on to note these thoughts:

You may be saying to yourself, “Well, our culture has forgotten the Christian meanings, too.” I say not entirely. Even then, Christ makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love.

The cathedrals of commerce, our shopping malls and grocery stores, play Christmas music for almost a month before Christmas. Shoppers are literally drenched with the praises of Christ while they engage in what amounts to preparation for extravagantly sacrificial giving to friends and family. Believers and unbelievers alike, once a year, spend what many people consider far too much, just to give it away. This in turn creates a huge wave of cash that washes around the globe creating jobs that allow people in other countries to buy food and clothing. I heard recently that most retail outlets don’t turn a profit until Black Friday, the first day of the Christmas shopping season. God teaches us about giving and provides daily bread for millions. All this because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The author takes time to answer some of the objections that might comes his way, such as, “These people aren’t Christians, are materialistic, are doing it for selfish reasons, don’t understand the true meaning.”

I don’t think the answers given were 100% fully sufficient, at least from my perspective. I would have answered the objections just a little differently. Yet, nonetheless, I liked many of his thoughts that were laid out in the post.

I personally have no problem if Christmas simply becomes a time when we enjoy family, an amazing meal together, exchanging gifts, etc. These are not bad things. Really, the aren’t! Sure, materialism and greed are found in the hearts of many during this time of year (even getting the best of you and I in our Pharisaical attitudes).

But I think the Scriptures do well to emphasise things like family and meals together and generosity in our giving. Of course, I am not asking us to just tack on Jesus to the side of Christmas so that we feel good about ourselves, believing we have somehow magically brought a ‘Christian’ emphasis to our Christmas. Jesus is hardly an add-on accessory. He makes death the prerequisite for new life (start with Matthew 10:38).

Still, I am convinced there is nothing wrong with having a time of year where these Biblical concepts are stressed. Yes, again, family and meals and generosity are Biblical concepts.

To be honest, what I have always struggled with is the idea of emphasising something about Christ and our faith during one specific day of the year. I mean, I’m also not up for sounding overspiritual or holier than thou. But I am up for the realisation that the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and enthronement of Jesus are to be a reality each day. I know the church has traditionally taken specific days of the year to highlight particular aspects of Christ and our faith for over one and a half millenia now. So I’m not all out against it. But here’s my thing…

If we are going to argue against gifts and Santa and Christmas trees during the holidays, all for the sake of religiously making Jesus the centre of Christmas, then I think we ought to just swing the pendulum fully the other way and say we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas at all because Jesus’ birth should be celebrated each and every day.

Both views are equal extremes. Both will leave bad tastes in the mouths of the culture in which we live (or most of us live). We will just be seen as very sectarian and cultic, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the other hand, as with most things, I believe we are called to balance here, a solid middle-ground.

Therefore, all this is to say that, as the article I have linked to points out, we don’t need to get so bent out of shape over some of the traditions and specific patterns of our culture during the Christmas season. Yes, some of it is probably outright ridiculous, i.e., heading out to the malls at 5.00am on the Friday following Thanksgiving to get all the best deals on your Christmas shopping (weird name that it is – Black Friday). Or one ridiculous trap I fell into this year was comparing the price of the gift one family member got for me with the price of what I bought for them, just to make sure the two were about equal (I live in another country from my family, so it all happened where I knew what I was getting). I’m thinking that kind of mindset is not the point of getting a gift for another.

So I do recognise some major problems that could arise during this season of the year.

But it’s time for a lot of us, as Christians, to get over ourselves (yes, ourselves) and enjoy those things that seem less ‘spiritual’ about Christmas. Enjoy the songs, enjoy the lights, enjoy watching Home Alone with your family, enjoy some turkey, enjoy some hot cocoa together, etc. I even think that God might possibly want to use those exact things we deem less spiritual to teach us some things about His heart.

So, those are some thoughts I had following my perusal of the article over at InternetMonk. If you want to read more of that article, click here. But I also hope you found my own thoughts of some worth.

There is also a post at Parchment & Pen in a very similar vein to the article here and at InternetMonk.

Have a Merry Christmas!