Sunday, December 25, 2011

“Santa Baby” and Baby Jesus: Anticipation and Impatience

The Christmas season is one of those times when we find ourselves torn between anticipation and impatience. The lyrics of Joan Javits and Philip Springer’s “Santa Baby” capture that tension with the eight-fold repetition of the plea for Santa to “hurry down the chimney tonight.” But the siren’s song is not so much a longing for Santa’s presence as it is for Santa’s presents.

The season’s excitement for every child no matter what the age is based on “What am I going to get for Christmas?” And, of course, the true Gift of Christmas is one that already has been given centuries ago but now has been lost in the clutter of Christmas wrappings and bows.

We are living and experiencing Christmas today, and in that experience we find the sweet anticipation of the giving and receiving of gifts and the cranky impatience driven by the insatiable desire for more and better and brighter gifts than ever before. Maybe in this year of economic “hardship” we will have tapered off a little from the wanton extravagance of the boom times of the past, but the commercial enterprise still far outweighs the spiritual. Can we recast the inherent impatience of this Christmas Day with an anticipation of an even greater Gift?

Some conservative religious traditions reject the idea of Christmas all together, pointing out that the word Christmas itself is a shortening of the Catholic “Christ Mass.” Christmas, to them, is a popish celebration. They fail to recognize that a mass is any act of worship in which the Eucharist, communion, or the Lord’s Supper is observed. These same folks often are turned off by liturgical language like “Eucharist,” failing to recognize that the term solely focuses on “giving thanks” for the sacrificial gift of Christ’s life for our salvation. Maybe what we need is to recover the Mass, the Eucharist, the giving of thanks on this day—not for the gifts we are receiving from each other, but for the Gift we already have received in the Incarnation and the Gift that we still anticipate in Christ’s coming again. Maybe our anticipation of Christmas should be focused on the Reappearing rather than on the first Epiphany. Maybe our impatience should reflect the longing desire and excited anticipation voiced in that Aramaic expression recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:22, marana tha, "Come, Lord!”

“Santa Baby” stands in sharp contrast with Baby Jesus. Maybe we can recapture today something of the true spirit of this day: less materialism, more reverence, more sacrifice, more giving thanks, and more longing for God to finish all that was begun in the first Christ Mass.

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