Monday, December 24, 2007

The 12 Months of Christmas -- and other ramblings


Every so often, you come across something that "says it all" -- so brilliantly expressed, you just want to slap "forward" on it and fire it off to as many people that you know. This is one such thing, sent by a friend of mine the other day:

This is truly a message one wants to spread around, and especially to let your local businesses know how you feel. So what I'm suggesting all my friends do, is circulate this link to the managers of as many malls and individual businesses as they can think of, let them know that this video expresses their views and their feelings about the de-Jesusization* of Christmas, and that they intend to "vote with their dollars" if the businesses don't smarten up.

BUT ... rather than send it now, when it's too late and could be easily dismissed as a bunch of religious reactionaries caught up in the emotion of the season, I say we bookmark the link and sit on it until October 1, 2008. Then we pounce. That gives them enough time to re-think their plans for the Christmas shopping season.

Mind you, we first need to contact the people at Citizen Link to ask them to keep the link active until then. We can email them at citizenlink@family.0rg.

For Canadians, by the way, 22.3 million of us (according to the 2001 Census) are Christians who are likely to celebrate Christmas (I left the Jehovah's Witnesses out of my calculations). There are 29.5 million Canadians. That's 76%.

Funny, how the fear of offending less than a quarter of the population is driving so many business decisions.

Incidentally, CNN this morning had a live report from Macy's in Herald Square, New York (the same Macy's where "Miracle on 34th Street" was set), about the number of retail businesses that are staying open 24 hours, because sales during the Christmas season are running 4% below expectations.

Am I the only one who sees a connection between the attempt to deny Jesus in Christmas and this lack of blessing on the businesses?



Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is regarded as one of those "Christmas Classic" TV shows, and indeed, it is. It used to be one of those "staples" in my TV-watching at Christmastime, along with Alistair Sim's "Scrooge" and Charlie Brown. But you'll notice it's not on my Top 10 list over there on the left, and one of the reasons for that is the bizarre premise that, because of the heavy fog and bad weather, they would have to "cancel Christmas". Why Dasher didn't gore Santa right away and say, "no, it means we get to spend Christmas with our families, fatso!", is beyond me. One would hope that parents would have carefully explained to their children that Christmas goes ahead, with or without Santa Claus, but that message is still getting out there, without contradiction. Am I over-reacting? Probably.

Dr Seuss got it right: the whole idea of How The Grinch Stole Christmas was that removing the festival accoutrements of Christmas did not end the season, itself ... and that the spirit is much greater than any evil. We need more Grinch and less Rudolph.



Since I tantalized you with the reference in my Christmas Favourites list on the left there, I'd wanted to include at least a link to Dave Barry's column about The Christmas Goat. But try as I might, I can't find it online, except through a website that uses it as a hook, then requires you to sign up for a 7-day free trial which makes you charge $29.95 to your credit card before you can actually read it. (The charge, they promise, is wiped off the credit card if you cancel your order before the 7-day trial period is over, but I have a deep distrust for credit cards on the Internet at present.) So if anyone finds it, please let me know. It's killingly funny, and all I can tell you it's from December 1991, and is not his more recent writings about the Julebykk in Gavle, Sweden (which is what you'll often find if you Google "Dave Barry Christmas Goat").



Those of us at Carrall Street Church (aka Gospel Mission) are holding our Christmas dinner today (Dec. 24). We'll probably get 40 people for turkey and ham and such, and the funny thing is, there are so many special dinners on the Downtown East Side at this time of year, it's possible for someone to have three or four turkey meals in two weeks or less! I think it's wonderful, especially considering the way these guys get kicked in the teeth by society the rest of the year!

We got a call Saturday morning from a young lady at Costco, saying she had "some" turkeys for us, and where could she bring them. I told her I'd meet her at the Mission at 11. Pastor Barry told me she'd said she had 8 turkeys, which was cool -- even though we already had our two turkeys for the Christmas Eve dinner -- but when I met Cherelle, she brought 16 turkeys! Young ones, mind you -- "only" about 10-15 lbs each -- but a LOT of turkeys! Tom -- one of our elders -- figures this should take us through Christmas 2009, no problem!

Seriously, turkey would be a welcome change at other times of the year, and staying in the freezer should keep them for quite a while. For our Saturday services, we generally serve a sort-of hamburger stew, which Amelia has perfected -- ground beef and mixed veg and cream of mushroom soup and kidney beans, served over rice.

Scary thought: what if she'd gotten us mixed up with Union Gospel Mission? I tried to reach her to verify that, but wasn't able to, and Barry assures me that Cherelle found us on the Internet, and knew the difference. So heaps of blessing on Costco, for that!



One thing about Ebenezer Scrooge (which I'm sure Dickens meant but may have escaped the notice of his readers): he was no hypocrite, even in his pre-visitation days. There was a column in the Toronto Sun in which the writer described his encounter with a homeless man and how he bought the guy food and pitied him at this time of the year.

I couldn't help thinking: Where are you the other 364 days of the year (365 in 2008)? One volunteer at Union Gospel summed it up in an article over the weekend, by saying how important it is to hang in throughout the year, and not just show up at Christmastime. Right on.

Early in "A Christmas Carol", two businessmen come to Scrooge's office and try to get him to contribute to a Christmas charity, "because it is at this time of year that the need is most acutely felt". In a 1990s treatment, Scrooge would probably have feigned sticking two fingers down his throat: instead, he asks why the need would be more acutely felt at this time of year than at any other time.

Scrooge's point, as I see it, is that he won't be bullied or guilt-tripped into contributing to the needy simply because it's Christmastime. In the end, his epiphany is glorious because, in a way, he still doesn't treat Christmastime as different from any other time of year, but that's because he keeps Christmas all year 'round!



Re-gifting is almost a joke now -- you know, passing along what someone's given to you to somebody else. The joke is based on the idea that the gift is fairly useless and it's getting passed along because the recipient is in a position where he/she has to give something to someone and either (a) doesn't have the time or (b) doesn't have the inclination to find something in particular for that third party.

In some ways, that's pretty cruel, but I can see where it isn't, too: if you're passing it along to someone who doesn't have anything; or if it occurs to you that the gift is much better suited to them, it's not a bad thing.

But now is a good time to remember the best re-gifting of all. Jesus was and is God's gift to us, from the very first day He drew breath on this planet. The Great Commission is that we are supposed to spread the Gospel -- the Good News of God -- and pass along the other blessings, like healing, cleansing, and telling people they're forgiven. In other words, re-gifting isn't just expected, it's REQUIRED.

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