Advent Calendar Day 1: The Rebel Jesus

Christmas season’s finally started.  I’m excited about this, which may surprise some people, since up until December 1st I don’t want to hear anything about Christmas.  To everything there is a season, and if you tried kicking off the Christmas season before the day after Thanksgiving at absolute earliest, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

But I love Christmas.  It’s one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, of course, even if we did date-jack the various pagan festivities going on around this time.  Christmas was right up there with theater, non-Calvinist theology, religious freedom, and smiling on the list of things that pissed off the Puritans most, and that alone would be enough to endear it to me.  And, especially when taken together with the various other holy days around it, it’s a time of year that can bring out the best in us, that part of the human spirit most in tune with what Jesus of Nazareth preached.  If we’re ever going to humble ourselves, make peace, turn the other cheek, forgive our enemies, and love others as we love ourselves, now’s the time for it.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that just as Thanksgiving is the Feast of Gluttony, Christmas has been shaped towards being the Feast of Mammon.  These are the days of buying, of selling, of consuming, and while I’m all about giving and getting as many presents as possible, I spend a lot of time in December sharing in Charlie Brown’s shuddering revulsion at the way the goodness and holiness can get papered over with gilded dollar signs.

Sometimes I also find myself thinking that the infant Jesus, wrapped up tight in his swaddling cloths and nestled in that manger next to the ox and lamb and the kid with the snare drum and the guy pooping in the corner (it’s a Catalan thing), is much easier to put into a convenient box than the occasionally furious hobo street preacher who got nailed to a cross for scaring The Man too much.  Easier to ignore the frightening, world-shattering things he taught if our image of him is a smiling baby rather than a long-haired prophet swinging a bullwhip at exploitive capitalists.

But anyway, here I am, an outlaw Christian who, despite my occasional smoking and drinking and cussing and coveting electronic gadgets I don’t need*, is still trying to follow the Way, still trying to best I can to be the shepherd**.  This month, that means taking some time every night to think about Jesus and this Christmas thing some, and to write some about it.  Come along with me and I’ll talk more about all this in its time, and there’ll be some music as well.

Merry Christmas.

*Seriously, I have four devices, two in literal arms’ reach right this second, that run the free Kindle app, and a Kindle is still one of the top items on my Christmas list.  What does that say about me that isn’t bad?

**Speaking of which, I’m also an unapologetic lover of shockingly violent and profane movies, and I still hope one day to get behind a pulpit long enough to deliver a couple of sermons inspired by Pulp Fiction and Lone Wolf and Cub.  Pat Robertson will never invite me to appear on The 700 Club, is what I’m saying.

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