“Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men.”
Athanasius – On the Incarnation of the Word (2.8)
This has been a difficult holiday season for many. 300,000 + Americans lost to COVID -19 with more dying every day due in part to the Trump administration neglect, malfeasance, incompetence and politicization of the pandemic, MAGA media disinformation and genuine human stupidity that prefers conspiracies over common sense. The changes in work, school and family, from isolation to unemployment have meant this year’s holidays will be much different than years before. In addition, catastrophic fires in Oregon and California and hurricane damage in the south have added to the pain and misery.
With the shorter days and lack of sunshine, I usually feel like Scrooge this time of year but even more so with the loss of 98% of our family’s possessions in the Almeda fire on Sept. 8th, realizing that we are starting from scratch when it comes to decorating for the holidays. No tree, no ornaments, no family momentos from Christmases past. No big deal that ordering from Walmart can’t fix besides the family heirlooms. However, it reminded me of my discomfort with the holiday and the idea about revising Christmas. No, I’m not a Puritan who wants to ban the holiday like was done in New England in colonial days. Maybe Dec. 25th should be renamed (Super Solstice? Mid-Winter Mania? suggestions?) and an alternative date established to recognize the true significance of the birth of Jesus which is his incarnation. This way shoppers and vendors could have their fun and profits for Dec. 25th and believers could contemplate the true meaning of Christ “born for us” with out all the other accompanying pandemonium (after all, Orthodox Christians have been celebrating the Feast of the Nativity in January for centuries without any vituperation from the MAGA media).
The reason I suggest this change is not because I’ve been reading too many Chick comics. It simply doesn’t take long to notice that all the myriad traditions I have kept & enjoyed over the years as well as most Americans (such as colored lights, flocked trees, ornaments, inflatable nativities, reindeer and the jolly old guy in red) that make up the collective, cultural menagerie have little to do with the profound implications of the incarnation. And this year especially we need the incarnation – how God’s mercy, promises, goodness and compassion meet the stark reality of humankind’s suffering, poverty, cruelty, brokenness, sorrow, disease and death.
It’s just an idea. That way we could still have fun with the presents and eggnog, corporations & retailers would make their profits and we could let the good news that brings great joy sink deep, deep into our heart and soul.
May our world know more of the peace of Emmanuel, “God with us.”