Christmas Makes Us Decide If We Believe

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   Christmas does not force anyone to decide what we believe. There is something more fundamental about this season.

  Resurrection season makes us decide what we believe. Can a man be God? Can a dead man live again? Can a once dead man-god pay the price for all I have done and intend to do?

   Christmas forces us only to decide if we believe but that is the start of all the rest of our problems. We layer over Advent with sentimentality so thick a spoon would stand up in it. No appeal is too shameless, no eye left undried. The world needs a holiday from hopelessness and, come Hell or High Water, we will have it.

   There is a nagging place in the frontal lobe, though, a condemned spot on the tip of the tongue, a gnawing pain in our gut, that says this holiday from hopelessness is itself built on hopelessness. A frantic young virgin gives birth while on the lam from people who can count gestation cycles as well as we can today. An older man watches over her, questioning his virility and her virtue. Some shepherds come in straight from work, smelling of the field and reeking of the sheep. A few migrants offer valuable gifts and themselves run away from a bipolar, homicidal maniac ruler.

   No wonder we need an antidepressant after Advent. The story itself is mostly a downer, even if we believe.

   If we believe. The arrangement we have with our culture is simple; you can have Christmas, hold Christmas, keep Christmas, with or without the Virgin, the Old Man and the Baby. Scrooge kept Christmas better than anyone it is said, for he took care of Tiny Tim and let Bob burn coal in the shop. You don’t need the Son, just the spirit. Why spoil Christmas for everybody?

   If we believe. Christmas, like Santa, comes once a year, leaves gifts and mysteriously disappears. We don’t need God for this.

   If we believe. Christmas makes us decide if we believe. The doctrinal stuff pushes in after we decide to believe the story about the Baby, straight out of Jewish mysticism even the Jews can’t accept. The nit-picky, who-believes-the-Bible-better affirmations enter our consciousness sometime long after we first exercise faith (Definition: Faith is that which holds our doubts in tension) in the Baby in the Manger who makes the whole season necessary, not just possible.

   If we believe. Christmas makes us decide if we believe.

"God, I want to believe.

I really, really want to believe.

I don’t want a fifty year silence

like Mother Teresa felt.

I don’t want a still small voice

or a kick in the pants.

I don’t know all You have to give.

But I want You to know

I want to believe.

Can You,

Will You,

Would You,

Help me believe?"

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