Bowling For Santa

Christmas has been a little strange for me, this year. I don’t know, the thought of all that work just sucks the joy right out of me. Most years I spend the greater part of November and December going through boxes, shopping with money that I don’t have, fighting strings of lights and wads of ornament hooks, pretty much by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I usually end up with too much staging and not enough merry.

It’s probably got something to do with my kids growing up that has squelched the customary fervor. I’m not grinchy, on the contrary,  I’ve really enjoyed the season much more without all the frantic decorating and shopping. I haven’t even put up the tree and, strangely, nobody has noticed. I told my family that they were welcome to do the do this year and I’d be happy to help, but there were no takers. I don’t mind and, apparently, neither do they. It is giving me a tremendous sense of joy and relief to know that I don’t have to face that titanic clean up at the first of the new year. It’s very liberating.

I like to talk about the big show that we put on in church every week, but what about the one we host every day? We put on our costumes and rehearse our parts. We arrange the lights and work on our timing. Line, please! Looking and acting a certain way in order to please the public is utterly exhausting. It’s no wonder that there are so many of us suffering sickness and depression. Pulling off that production every day is too much and the stress of it is overwhelming. Please and thank you is nice enough and being considerate of others is nice, too. But where did we cross the line and take on all of these bit parts? I’m this way at work and I’m that way at school and I’m something else at the doctor’s office. Where does it end? Who am I?

At the bottom of it all is my fear of rejection. If I don’t put a spit shined version of myself out there, if I don’t conform to the will of the masses, I’m sure to be judged harshly as I deserve to be. If I don’t follow the crowd, if I don’t do what I’m told just because it’s the way we’ve always done it, if I don’t dance to the beat there’s going to be a problem. There’s going to be a disaster, someone’s going to get hurt. God forbid that I think or behave outside of the social consensus. There will definitely be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Rubbish.

Don’t you know? Everybody’s way too into their own show to notice any kind of a hitch in mine. It’s true.

This holiday season I spent more time actually watching Christmas movies with my family, visiting with people that I absolutely love, I even learned to knit. Who knows, I might get to read Dickens before it’s all over with. I haven’t had a real worry or care. Sometimes I feel one trying to crawl up my sleeve, but I just shake it off and have another glass of eggnog.

This Christmas I didn’t want to pull out all of those decorations and guess what? Nobody really cared. Just like the Who’s in Whoville, it didn’t stop Christmas from coming, it came. Somehow or other it came just the same.

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Three’s A Crowd

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy.

As Christians, that should be one of our biggest selling points. I don’t see very much of it, though. I’ve been listening to a great old album, George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’. It was released just after the Beatles’ break-up (I’m really showing my age, here). It contains some of his biggest solo hits, What is Life, and My Sweet Lord, etc. By the way, you know he was singing about Krishna, right?  It’s just such a joyful album. It makes me dance. That guy really believed what he was selling. Why don’t we?

The people who are on staff at my church don’t look very happy. They’re the sweetest people in the world. They’re good people who love God and each other. I know that joy isn’t something you necessarily wear on your face, but it is something that can’t be contained. True joy shines out and can’t be hidden. Where’s the joy? Did it get lost somewhere? Did it die? Can we get it back? Did we ever really have it to begin with?

My personal opinion (for what it’s worth) is that we’ve crowded it out. We fill our days and minds with so much shit that I can’t even believe it. Our agendas have become far more important to us than our love. Why is it so imperative that things be done a certain way? Why do I feel like certain things must be done at all? Ah, the doing. I wrote an essay several months ago about ‘doing it for God’. I’ll dig it up and repost it, sometime. Anywho, the point is this. Who am I trying to impress? Who am I trying to save? What really gets accomplished when I put transitory situations and ephemeral things before people? It takes up all the space in my heart and leaves no room for joy. The big building, the big show, who is it for? I don’t think I want to know the answer to that, and yet I do know the answer and so do you.

Maybe that’s why Jesus was more or less homeless for the last few years of his life.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Luke 9: 58

This verse appears under the heading, ‘ The Cost of Following Jesus’. What I have to ask is this: what will I pay to experience true joy? We say that we want happiness and joy but our actions don’t match our philosophy. You know, giving up the things only hurts for a moment and then the pain is gone. It goes away because joy floods in and fills the empty space. Get rid of something else and joy grows. The next thing you know, you have so much joy that it pours out of you into and through everything and everyone you touch.  All those things, buildings and study groups and basketball goals, are just gonna burn anyway. All things must pass.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  1 Corinthians 13: 8

Here’s what Jesus is selling: (and he’s practically giving it away….)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  Luke 21: 33

Are we buying it?