The Common Good

It's Started: The Christmas Onslaught

It's started.

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A Christmas card. Monkik / Shutterstock

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I was following the Twitter feed for the conversation between Nadia Bolz-Weber and Amy Butler at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. (#nadiaandamy) about the present realities and possible futures of Christianity in the United States, and it happened. I was happily dividing my cognitive attentions between Twitter and the television when it happened.

There was a Christmas ad.

Some big box store has a swanky little ad running on Hulu. I cried in outrage and immediately tweeted to the #nadiaandamy thread that Nadia and Amy need to do something about this crime against, I don’t know, crime against something. Humanity? The Church? Rebroadcasts of my favorite television show? The ether, however, ignored me. One person retweeted my tweet and another favorited it, but that’s all.

It is upon us. The decorations are up and the sales are on. The adverts are broadcasted across the airwaves and midst bandwith. It is what it is and nothing can change it, not even Nadia and Amy.

The posts have started as well. You know the ones. “The War Against Christmas” is such a common trope now. Politicians are in on it. Pastors are in on it. We’re all in on it.

My spouse and I have already had the first of what will likely be many conversations about the problem of saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”

It’s started.

You’re doing it wrong! #nadiaandamy

And it’s tempting right now to pen some screed on Christian’s blog about the evils of too much/not enough Christmas/Advent/Holiday something. As a liturgical scholar I feel some kind of strange obligation to point out to us when we’re “doing it wrong.” I’ve been informed that is what liturgical scholarship is all about. “Hey! You’re doing [particular liturgical event] wrong!”

But isn’t that kind of what’s getting me all worked up in the first place? Are “we” doing it wrong and who is this “we” anyway? The truth is that Christians haven’t agreed on how or when to celebrate the nativity of The Christ for more than a thousand years. Do we really expect the local big box store ad to reflect some kind of theological consensus about the holiday and how we are all to honor it? Really? Is that what big box stores are for? Also, and this may freak a few of us Christians out, but have we noticed that we really aren’t in control of our own holidays?

Rankin Bass, Hallmark, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” or better yet “Santa Lost A Ho” (I kid you not). “Ho! Ho! [rest] Where’d the other ho go? I don’t know!” We can look back over the centuries and track the diversity of ways of celebrating Christmas conflated with entertaining ourselves this time of year and how little of it ever had anything to with Jesus or being Christ in the world. “The Wren”, anyone?

So, now what? #nadiaandamy 

Well, maybe we just need to be a little humble and have a sense of humor. Maybe I need to check my own liturgical righteousness at the door when that ad comes on television.

Because, like the coming of Christ, it’s started. It’s upon us, this adventus, this eschatological reality that we Christians proclaim. Of course the message is going to get pushed around and appropriated for all manner of self-serving reasons. But the celebration, the season, is alive. It is, like the God we love and serve, alive and beyond our control.

The celebration does not belong to us. It never has.

Christ does not belong to us. He never has.

So, my friends, say it with me:

“It’s started.”

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

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