Sunday, November 29, 2009

Even Atheists Need Christmas (Advent Day 1)

I guess I will try to do a ADVENT meditation everyday. This one is rather long and I suspect my others will be just short blurbs. Anne Rice the noted author was a Christian, then a atheist, then a unhappy atheist and now has found her Faith again. She wrote a incredible book Called Out of Darkness- a spiritual confession. I am only posting parts of her thoughts on Christmas . It is located on pages 94 to 99 of her book. Go read it all!! My thoughts on this after the quotes

It goes on and I could on, but as I am talking now about New Orleans let me return to that theme.

Christmas in the time of my school days was even more sumptuous than Easter. In the early days we didn't keep Advent , or the penitential four weeks before Christmas. So the Christmas manger scene was erected quite early in each Church, and it stood there resplendent for all too see for quite a few number of days....

Even Christmas shopping was part of this festive and holy time of year. For me it was a matter of roaming five-and--dime stores on Canal Street for the simple presents I could afford. But I well remember the Christmas carols playing in every store I entered and the gorgeous Christmas windows of the fine stores, Maison Blanche and D.H Holmes.

It seems to me in retrospect that the department stores did an excellent job of extending the "sacred space" of Christmas in those days. And I sometimes wonder whether for people of no religion, this might have been the only sacred place they knew. When people rail now against "the commercial nature of Christmas," I am conflicted and unable to respond. Because I think those who would banish commercialism from the holiday fail to understand how precious and comforting the shop displays and music can be...

There was nothing like Christmas. Not even Mardi Gras exceed Christmas in importance and my child's mind sought some understanding of the mystery I was experiencing in the haunting Celtic carols we sang....

In my later years , bleak years, years without God there were two films show on television every Christmas which became of remarkable importance to me. On was It's a wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, and Donna Reed; and the other was Scrooge. Year after year I waited anxiously for these films, and sometimes they were the only Christmas films offered on National Television and I cannot help but wonder how important they must have been to people everywhere who were trying to regain that deep mystery of Christmas, in a world that no longer perhaps believed in it, or were determined to blot it out....

Back to childhood: as I grew older, somebody or some group of people in the Church decided that we should observe the Advent season and so the cribs could not be placed in Churches until Christmas Eve. Because in America "nothing is more over than Christmas," this meant that the cribs didn't command an body's attention for very long. The radiant Christ Child came and went in a matter of a few days. This was a terrible loss.

However the celebration of Advent was an interesting idea in itself, involving an Advent wreath with four candles for the Sundays of Advent. But I mourn the days when manger scenes went up early and the sheer joy of the Christmas season went on for a long, long time.....

Anne Rice again does a wonderful job of reminding us that THE WORD sometimes cannot be expressed only by the written "Word". Many people are just not "wired" that way and they must experience it through the senses. The strange loss recently of the need for sacred space and beauty is something I think Christians across the board fail to contemplate enough.

What I like about this is it is challenging for us Christians.

I , like Anne Rice, am not bashing the Holy Advent season. I think it is important to return to that. Still there is a lesson here for the Liturgical purists among us.

Also the whole topic of commercialism and materialism is important. Yes it is a problem. However I am reminded of a conversation I had just last night with a friend of mine. We were talking about the serious sin of materialism and how it has affected Christians. We both agreed though that the sin of materialism is a very much personal one. It does not have bright lines like the sins of lying, murder, fornication etc. So it is difficult to preach on without becoming a slave of judgemental thought and legalism. I find a lot of folks that talk about this important issue often sadly are highly annoying and paint with too far of a brush.

Anne here is reminding us that this Holy Space is needed and yes even though it popular to "Rant" about bad ole Commercial Christmas it does or did provide a sacred space. A sacred space that perhaps leads to a much more authentic conversion.

How do we enable a sacred place in our lives and for our neighbors even in the most mundane of things?

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