Ring the bells, beat the drums! Open your throats and shout to the heavens, OUR KING IS HERE! The child of the prophecy, the divine infant, our Lord and savior has come to earth! Drink deep in celebration, feast and toast the victory of the Son of Man. Sing! Roar with joy! Rejoice!
I’ve experienced observances of this day that range from terse and austere to opulent revels, and the former has never driven my heart toward glorifying the Lord like the latter. Christ is born! This exhortation comes from one who used to firmly been in the opposite camp. No, I’m not speaking of my years as an atheist (that’s a tale for another time), but I did once abstain from an observance of the day. Though my reasoning (I still believe) was sound, I was missing the point.
When I think about the Lord, I think of His exorbitant grace and abundant mercy. It is as King David writes repeatedly, His loving-kindness is everlasting. God is a “big spender” when it comes to joy. He is lavish and did not try to teach us selflessness by under-giving. Throughout my entire life (and all the centuries before I was born), God has always waaay overdone it—and the imitation of Christ means, among other things, imitating that part of His nature.
Christmas is no time to mourn and lament. Are there those without? Then open up your hearth to them, and be blessed yourself by being generous. Are there those among you who are hurting? Then throw your arms around them and remind all of the One who wipes away our tears. Do not treat this as a time of introspective penitence. To the extent that you must clean up, do it with the attitude of someone showering and changing clothes, getting ready for the best banquet you have ever been to. This does not include three weeks of meditating on how you are not worthy to go to banquets. Of course you are not. Haven’t you heard of grace?
Celebrate the stuff. Use fudge and eggnog and wine and roast beef. Use presents and wrapping paper. Embedded in many of the common complaints you hear about the holidays (consumerism, shopping, gluttony, etc.) are false assumptions about the point of the celebration. You do not prepare for a real celebration of the Incarnation through thirty days of Advent quasi-gnosticism.
Sin not resident in the “stuff.” Sin is found in the human heart—in the hearts of both true gluttons and true Scrooges—both those who drink much wine and those who drink much prune juice. If you are called up to the front of the class and you get the problem all wrong, it would be bad form to blame the blackboard. That’s just where you registered your error. In the same way, we register our sin on the stuff. Because Jesus was born in this material world, that is where we register our piety as well. If your godliness won’t imprint on fudge, then it is not true godliness.
If this seems reckless, well, it probably is—I’m sure it seems a little out of control, as though I am urging you to “go overboard.” But of course I am urging you to go overboard. Think about it—when this world was “in sin and error pining,” did God give us a teaspoon of grace to make our dungeon a tad more pleasant? No. He went overboard.
So it is Christmas, and it’s a perfect time to overdo it—there’s no better reason to celebrate than “God with us.”