Friday, December 23, 2005

The First One... Wasn't....

The first Christmas wasn't one. No, this isn't a rant against materialism or the recycling of pagan holidays. This is a collection of some of my reflections this day as we prepare for Christmas Eve and then the big day itself.

1. We never hear about Mary's parents. Did they disown her when she was found "with child" and before her official marriage to Joseph?

2. Was it rumors and inuendo that drove Mary to visit her cousin, Elizabeth? I would imagine that rumors were thick in the air and that they never fully died down. Later writers would atrribute the conception to a Roman soldier. Was Mary ever able to show her face in "respectable" society without being the recipient of smirks and dirty jokes?

3. Being the mother of Jesus probably ruined her life in many ways. Not only did her reputation die in some circles (and we have no idea what happened to that old guy she married. He probably died... but did he just leave?), she had to raise the Son of God -- no easy task -- and then witness the horrible cruelties inflicted on him.

4. Barns stink. Mangers are unsanitary. The first nativity scene wasn't a nativity scene, if you know what I mean. It would have smelt of manure, urine, blood, and straw. The air would have been full of dust and chaff. Without saying more -- have you ever witnessed a birth? There were no backlights or or halos here, no swirling angels singing with harps. The barn held pain, darkness, and confusion.

5. When we scrub the manger scene down with Lysol, place floodlights on the participants, make them white, comb their hair, and surround them with stars and adoring shepherds and animals we make Christianity a Nordic myth and rob it of its true power: for in all that dirt, pain, blood and dust was the Son of God, Emmanuel, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that means that our messy lives can still host that same King.

6. Two people have given me Norman Rockwell themed gifts already this year. I asked my wife last night: do we give people the impression this is what our life looks like? Truth be told, it is far closer to the manger scene than anything Rockwell ever painted. But the Messiah is here, so all is well.

7. I love the lights, the trees, the crowded stores. I love the snow (although I am tired of it shortly into the New Year). I love the cards and family letters from people we've known through the years. I LOVE giving presents but am always awkward at receiving them. I love the ornaments. ...but...I always remember that the first Christmas didn't look like this. It looked more like life does. That gives me comfort beyond words.

Oh... and that "recycled pagan holiday" thing so many harp on? Sure -- there used to be some pagan holidays that have some aspects in common with our celebration. But it doesn't belong to the pagans anymore. It's ours. We took it for Jesus and we're not giving it back. We did the same thing to tombstones, wearing white at weddings, wedding rings, the names of the days of the week and a hundred other things. They used to be pagan but they are ours now. Because what happened at that first Christmas changed everything. Forever.

Tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.

11 Comments:

At 12/23/2005 10:42:00 AM , Blogger Kevin J. Bowman said...

Patrick,

As always your writings are an inspired message from the Father. Thank you for these beautiful reflections on the first Christmas.


My wife and I had dinner with a member of your church's daughter (Molly Carris) the other night. I was raving on you and your blog and she was like... Oh that's where my parents go to church.

Anyway.. just thought I'd add that. Thanks as always for the inspiration.

 
At 12/23/2005 10:58:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

Sometimes we do "Norman Rockwell" everything up don't we? But it is great to know we do have the promise of that perfect life that will make all the "NR" paintings seem like a manger scene!

Merry Christmas!

 
At 12/23/2005 11:17:00 AM , Blogger jamie riley said...

Patrick - thank you for allowing God to touch our lives -- through you -- on this blog day after day. I love your heart, and the fact that you open and share it here.

Also -- thank you for reminding us that Jesus didn't choose a Royal birth -- he chose a manger/stall -- so I would know that He can identify with the mess in my life.

Beautiful post brother, and thanks for spending time with me just a few minutes ago.

I love you -- and Merry Christmas!

 
At 12/23/2005 01:04:00 PM , Blogger Amy said...

Great post, Patrick. I especially relate to #6 and my messed up life (and house, especially at Christmas!!). But thank God for the Messiah, and all is well. And it's not about me at all anyway, thank God for that.

Merry Christmas!

 
At 12/23/2005 01:59:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

PM, thanks for the insightful Christmas thoughts. I needed to hear them!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, brother!

DU

 
At 12/23/2005 09:42:00 PM , Blogger Bob Bliss said...

Patrick,
You should read this article from Touchstone Magazine concerning the supposed pagan roots of Christmas. It seems that we may have relied on research that was hastily done. This doesn't prove that we should do Christmas but it least it clears up the real development of the day.
http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

Bob

 
At 12/23/2005 09:45:00 PM , Blogger Bob Bliss said...

Patrick,
You should read this article from Touchstone Magazine concerning the development of December 25 as the birth of Jesus.

http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

 
At 12/23/2005 10:39:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Very interesting stuff, Bob. Worth reading.

 
At 12/25/2005 10:02:00 AM , Blogger Danny Sims said...

Excellent. Merry Christmas. Dee Andrews sent me your way.

Take a look at my post form Friday (the 23rd) and see what you think.

 
At 12/26/2005 04:15:00 PM , Blogger Justine said...

That was beautiful indeed. I never think of Joseph as an "old guy," though. I think of these two young, scared people -- very much in love and full of the giddiness that comes with that kind of youth and innocence -- who had ordinary marital plans that got seriously flipped upside-down. It was a messy business all around -- emotionally, physically, socially -- but a glorious mess, after all!

 
At 12/27/2005 09:51:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

This was really profound for me...

for in all that dirt, pain, blood and dust was the Son of God, Emmanuel, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that means that our messy lives can still host that same King.

....I needed to hear that our messy lives can still host a King. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Christmas.

 

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