The Grand Contradiction
Christmas . . . what do you visualize when you think about Christmas? Dancing lights, shimmering bulbs, air thick with the delicate aroma of turkey; wisps ascending from frothy cups of hot chocolate. Maybe your mind races warm with thoughts of carefully selected gifts, sugar cookies rendered brilliant by colored frosting and a dash of sprinkles, crackling fires laced with a hint of smoky hardwood, window panes etched delicate with frost. You might visualize friends and family, festive gatherings wrapped in something nearly magical; the taste of hope and good cheer faintly inching in around the edges of our lives. We may strive to see fresh hopes for the New Year teased out from the fading embers of the old one. We often see much indeed.
Yet there is this massive and rather chafing contradiction in it all. In fact, the contradiction is something of a scandalous oxymoron where the placid and serene rendering of what we’d like the world to be like is jarringly offset but the brutality that darkens that very rendering. It seems that Christmas embodies some fanciful ideal that we would wish upon the world if we could. The dream of an irrepressible goodwill, never ceasing to cherish the fellowman, seizing the golden rule as our standard of faith and practice, and walking with a commitment to bless in word and deed is a grand dream indeed. In fact, it is likely borne of some deeply primal side of ourselves that reflects some grand original design now flawed that Christmas calls us back to. Yet, too often we have relegated it to the sweetly fanciful fiction from which dreams are crafted.
Surrender to the Grand Contradiction
However, it seems that we perpetually surrender to the negative side of this stinging contradiction. Indeed, we see the message of Christmas as splendidly wonderful and embracing so many of the things that we wish the world was. But it seems shackled within the confining rubric of celebration, and if thoughtlessly unleashed beyond those confines, can find no sustainable foothold in the darker realities of the larger world.
Christmas is a bold act of emboldening sacrifice and the most selfless gift ever granted the rebellious lot that we are. It is a promise that imbues men with hope even in those most hopeless of times when we’ve completely forgotten what the face of hope looks like. Yet, outside of our celebration of it, we seem shamefully negligent in our ability or lax in our willingness to import it out beyond the celebration and intentionally integrate it into the world that we inhabit outside of that celebration.
If Christmas is all that it purports to be then it will not only stand out in that world, but it will charismatically advance in the very places where we fear it would fall. If it is a universally comprehensive and keenly clandestine rescue mission strategically crafted by God Himself eons before the rescue was necessary, it would naturally follow that if it is doomed to anything it is doomed to uncontestable success. If this birth marks the death of death, then there is nothing left in all of existence that could ever hope to contest it. And if all of this is so, then it is the very thing that we need to seize and import into every shadowy corner of the darker realities of the larger world that lies ‘round about this celebration.
Challenging the Contradiction
So what will I do with this chafing contradiction? Will I surrender Christmas to the confines of this singular holiday? Will I see it as sheepishly restrained to December 25th because I have yet to understand the utterly domineering magnitude of it all? Will I live yearning for a world that I need not yearn for because the message of Christmas is entirely undaunted in its ability to handily penetrate and completely subjugate the very world that I doubt its ability to survive in?
Maybe the greatest hope of Christmas is that what it purports to be is exactly what it is. Maybe the real contradiction lies within me. Maybe I have yet to diligently probe the pristine nature of this holiday, and because of my lack of attentiveness I find myself blind to the colossal enormity of the gift that I errantly presume to be aware of. And so maybe I need to immerse the fabric of my soul into the torrential nature of this holiday, and in doing so to finally understand that it is the very thing that can make the world what I so wish it were. Maybe I need to let Christmas be Christmas and to give it permission to sweep me out into that dark world, living out that message in the darkest of places so that the darkness itself can do nothing but become light. And maybe in doing so I become the privileged bearer of the greatest gift ever given.