Editors Note: This is the third part of the series. In part 1 (here), I attempted to explain how it is that American society really has 2 Christmas celebrations. In part 2 (here) I hoped to argue that real celebration means those with different views coming together, and accepting the diversity of others celebration.
l Like many I have often worried that about the nature of overlap between the 2 Christmases. I have worried, like of my Fox watching brethren (and a few sisthren, but only a few) that the “secular” form of celebration might overshadow and overstep the “religious” celebration. And only occasionally I worry that the “reason for the season” grinches might be spoiling the more “secular” fun that Christmas can entail. Leave it to the Doctor to assuage my concerns, and show me a new way forward (or back).
As many of you might know the Doctor Who franchise has produced a number of Christmas themed shows that BBC America has been marathoning as of late. One of my favorites has come from the Matt Smith era, and is titled: A Christmas Carol. It is a re-telling of Dickens classic is a way that only the Doctor can. Lessons are learned and lives are saved (as much from the Doctor’s plans as from the Doctor but such is life). What stuck me was one of the character’s description of the holidays. Right after the jump an ominous voice-over describes the holiday season as [and I’m paraphrasing] “that event which occurs around the winter solstice and is a type of half-time party for man’s long trip through the darkness.” As the celebration begins and the episode ends, Smith’s Doctor wishes that now-joyful narrator a blessing narration “may you enjoy being half-way through the darkness.”
At first the Evangelical in me grumbled that once again no mention of the religious side of Christmas, but as I watched the episode and caught the doctor’s benediction a new understanding of the faith hit me. As a Christian I believe the important celebration at hand is that of the birth of Christ and the influx of the Kingdom of God into the world in a new and important way. This momentous birth and the life that blossomed out of it work as a clarion call to the world that God is now King, the world is now His domain, and everything is being renewed and rebirthed into that which it was always supposed to be. However as Advent and the teaching of the Church remind us, all is not finished. Christ has come. Christ is alive. Christ will come again. Then and only then will all things be made new. On that day (and only on that day) will the world be made right. The birth of a child in a manger and the ensuing life stand as a half-time celebration of the Kingdom Come. They mark, as it were, humanity’s half-way passage through the dark shadowlands of winter, and into that bright Spring day that is to come. Sun may not shine so bright today, but one day we will awake and it will shine brighter, warmer, and longer than ever before. I owe it all to the Doctor for allowing me to make this connection between the faith and celebrations I love. Celebrating the passage of Winter is like celebrating that long-ago pilgramage to Bethlehem. Christmas is like Christmas.
Yet this moment of serendipity is only possible if and only if I had been participating in the celebrations of both communities. I needed to be in both worlds, to see the connection. And this is what is so dangerous about the War motif and the ensuing narratives to come out of it. A warrior does not look for similarities, but only differences to be destroyed (for a great look at this idea and what it might mean in the real world, see the incredible WWII book A Higher Call). When we are at war with others, we lose sight of anything other than the fight, the animosity, and the struggle. What’s the old cliche: “to a hammer, everything is a nail.” Yet the true work of the Kingdom (and the work of Christmas) is not about hammers and nails, we save a discussion for what they do around Easter. No, the work of Christmas is to announce with joy that “the King has arrived.” For that we need music, food, cigars, and wine. We need to come together. We need to celebrate. We need to proclaim aloud for all to hear “a child is born.” We cannot do that if we also yelling at the top of our lungs at the neighbor with the Snoopy Santa sat in opposition to our manger. For some reason no one looks to party with the town nag.
So to all my brothers and sisters, I say party like it 7 B.C.E. For until us a child is born and his name will be called Emmanuel. And the government of the world will be upon his shoulders. And one day he will bring the lasting hope and change we have all longed to see. Until then join with me in echoing the good Doctor’s benediction: “Enjoy your mid-way’s passage through the darkness.”
P.S. You can watch the Doctor Who episode, The Christmas Carol, here.