Christmas 2013

Excitement leads only to dissatisfaction. That's how I've seen Christmas in the past. Whether I've labeled it Stoicism or maturity, I have always found a way to de-sensationalize this holiday that others naturally find exciting and magical.

In my early teens I began realizing that getting excited for Christmas was really a destructive habit. When the gifts rapidly and inevitably lost their charm, I would think, "This is the last year. No more getting excited about this." The greater the anticipation the steeper the disappointment, it seemed to me. As a highly rational teenager, I hypothesized that the solution was to minimize anticipation, thereby mitigating the effects of the inevitable post-Christmas disillusionment. Add in the naturally sullen and disinterested mood of a teenage boy and you got a pre-adult who quite successfully smoothed out the peaks of not only Christmases, but life in general.

This strategy generally led to success. The good grades came because I wouldn't go to parties (too much purposeless excitement). I got lots of sleep (nothing good happens after 10pm), which kept me alert at work and in class, leading to positive performance reviews. I took an intellectual approach to faith, and so had excellent theology (emotional faith isn't real, after all).

Over the last few years, two things began eroding the walls of my well-constructed moderation.

First, I found that, unfortunately, the Gospel isn't dispassionate. Unfortunately Jesus commands us to be joyful; God demands that we feast.

Secondly, I met a girl--a girl so fascinating that staying up late sounded fun. One who cried big, uncomfortable, condemning tears over the lost. One whose passion for emotion, excitement, and celebration was tiring, financially irresponsible, time consuming, mercurial, eye-opening and precious.

And I've started to find myself excited about things that I thought I had conquered a long time ago.

Over the last four weeks I've listened to a lot of Christmas music. I've dug deep. Did you know Weezer released a (very terrible) Christmas album? I devoured two separate versions of the San Francisco Ballet's "The Nutcracker." The Polar Express soundtrack has been rolling around in my head for the last two weeks. I have even discovered some pretty outstanding Christmas remixes. Listening to anything other than Christmas music has seemed somehow silly.

I'm realizing that excitement, anticipation, and celebration aren't illegitimate. It just depends on what you're anticipating. And we seem to have the object of our anticipation mixed up, no matter what side of the religious fence we inhabit.

Those who want to find meaning in a Christmas that does not include Jesus focus heavily on the season of giving and the joy of being with family. As I hand out the presents, what happens when I realize a big chunk of me just wants to be praised? Or when the time with family never seems quite enough to satisfy?

Christians says that the presents, the Christmas trees, Will Ferrell, and Santa are tolerable, but you better keep your eyes on that baby in the manger. But I've tried that. As I've minimized the trappings that surround Christmas and I've denied my heart the opportunity to grow in anticipation of Christmas.

So this Christmas I won't be hanging my stocking on the fading joys of presents, family, or self-promoting feelings of altruism. But I won't miss it either. I'm going to let my emotions get as high as they can during the Advent season, the season of anticipation, as I wait to celebrate Jesus's birth as a human baby. I'm going to let the Rhema lights, snow days, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra build my excitement as I wait for the final coming of Jesus when he will restore, perfect, and affirm all of creation--even the eggnog.

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