Krista Tippett, host of “On Being”, has launched a broadside attack against Christmas.

Fortunately after listing the ways she dislikes Christmas, Tippett offers a positive vision of the reasons that lie at the source of this annual celebration. Tippett writes:

Here’s what I take seriously. There is something audacious and mysterious and reality-affirming in the assertion that has stayed alive for two thousand years that God took on eyes and ears and hands and feet, hunger and tears and laughter and the flu, joy and pain and gratitude and our terrible, redemptive human need for each other. It’s not provable, but it’s profoundly humanizing and concretely and spiritually exacting. And it’s no less rational — no more crazy — than economic and political myths to which we routinely deliver over our fates in this culture, to our individual and collective detriment.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/krista-tippett/why-i-dont-do-christmas_b_6375098.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

But, before getting to that happy message, Tippett castigates our annual celebration of God taking “on eyes and ears and hands and feet.”

Her first Christmas enemy is “obligatory self-giving” and its accompanying well-beaten whipping boy, the “commercial orgy that has now even co-opted the ritual angle.”

While I sympathize with Tippett’s angst around the commercialization of Christmas, my holiday celebration this year has been touched by the infectious excitement of one member of our family who is clearly more jazzed about the gifts she will give than those she hopes to receive.

The spirit of giving is a natural expression of that which is deepest and most profound in the human make-up. To condemn the practice of giving gifts to people we love simply due to the excesses to which gift-giving is driven by the economic engines of our society, is to allow those engines to run our lives in a way that I am pretty sure would horrify Ms. Tippett.

Tippett’s second Christmas culprit is the church. She is troubled by “the religious distortion of Christmas” that she sees afflicting so many Christian communities. To summon a witness for the prosecution against the church, Tippett reaches back into nineteenth century hymnody and trots out the popular Christmas carol “Away in a Manger” in which congregations devoutly sing,

The cattle are lowing,
the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus,
no crying He makes.

Admittedly there is something a tiny bit insipid about “Away in a manger.” And I understand that for a sleep-deprived parent, it might be a bit challenging to sing of an infant who upon awaking “no crying He makes.” But, there is nothing inherently wrong with a baby who wakes up from sleep without screaming. I know a small person in my life who generally awakens from her nap to greet the world with a smile. The fact that this may not have been Tippett’s experience of parenting does not mean it is necessarily trite. To banish the beautiful melody of “Away in a Manger” simply because it challenges Tippett’s experience of parenting, seems a sad transaction for the church.

Christmas is a large celebration. There is room for extravagant gift-giving, room for crying babies, and smiling children. There is space in Christmas for sadness, joy, acts of kindness to strangers, and the warmth of family gatherings and gift-giving.

The mystery of God in human form means nothing is excluded. There is room for sentiment and extravagance, as much as for Ms. Tippett’s plan this year to “go shopping as a family for these homeless teenagers.”

Rather than parading her altruism for all to see this year Tippett might want to embrace both the spirit of giving to her own cherished family members as well as the sentimental devotion of children’s Christmas music, and the virtue of acts of kindness to those who are less materially blessed than she.

There is room for everything Ms. Tippett. Only Scrooge feels the need to divide life into those parts of which he approves and those he finds distasteful.

May our hearts be open to the extravagant favour of God this Christmas Day.

 

 

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