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‘Tis the Season, Now More Than Ever November 23, 2008

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

Marybeth Hicks had a thought-provoking column in a recent Washington Times. Give that link a click, and read all the way through the column: the rest of this post assumes that you’ve read it. I’ll wait right here until you get back.

Read it? OK, onwards.

Like Ms. Hicks, in years gone by, I would have been the first to bah-humbug about Christmas decorations coming out earlier and earlier every year. And also like Ms. Hicks, I’m done complaining about it. I was seeing a few peeks of Christmas decor before the end of October, and quite frankly, I was happy to see them. There are several reasons for that.

Let me get the goofy one out of the way first. Humor me here–it gets more down-to-earth (literally) after I’m done with this one. I’ve already said elsewhere that I don’t like Halloween: at best, it’s a celebration of the macabre, at worst, it’s an elevation of the demonic. October is the one month of the year when Darkness gets a pass, if not an outright celebration. And from what I’ve experienced when it comes to the Darkness, it doesn’t need any more help than it already gets. Take it from someone who’s been there, and has the spiritual scars to prove it: you don’t want to help the Darkness. Ever. There is enough negativity, enough Darkness, enough–I’ll say it–evil in this world, that we don’t need to be encouraging it by giving October over to skeletons, ghouls, vampires, and assorted creepy-crawlies. So if Christmas decorations start fighting with Halloween decorations in October, more power to ’em: Darkness won’t then have a monopoly on the month of October.

Now, about those bus ads. It is fallacious to humanize Christmas. You can’t banish God from Christmas without demolishing the whole meaning of the observance. Being good for goodness’ sake is not the reason for the season. Because, in the end, who gets to say what’s “good” and what’s “evil”? If God doesn’t exist, then who or what, and I want names, is the final authority on goodness?

Let me put this in hockey terms. I live in Washington, and I’m a fan of the Capitals. (Duh.) Being a good fan of the Caps, that means there are teams I don’t much like: the Sabres, the Penguins, the Flyers, the Hurricanes, you get the idea. In the world of Capitals fans, Caps=good, and, let’s pick one team, Penguins=evil. But Pittsburgh fans obviously don’t see the world that way. Now, sports fandom really is a matter of personal preference, and there really isn’t a moral dimension to what team you root for. But if there were a moral dimension, who would have the final say on which of the two teams were “good” and “evil”?

And real life does have a lot of moral questions that need to have some authoritative answer to them. Take murder: most Westerners would tell you that killing another human being is always wrong. Yet there are some in the world today who genuinely believe that killing another human being is sometimes justifiable. Who’s right, and who says so?

What about stealing? Consider the Artful Dodger’s words in “Oliver Twist”: “If you don’t take pocket-handkerchers and watches, some other cove will; so that the coves that lost ’em will be all the worse, and you’ll be all the worse too and nobody half a ha’p’orth the better, except the chaps wot gets them–and you’ve just as good a right to them as they have.” Yet, “the coves that lost ’em” would certainly maintain that it’s wrong to steal their watches. Who’s right, and who says so?

Is it always wrong to cheat on your spouse? Is it always wrong to lie? Opinions differ. Who’s right, and who says so?

“Being good for goodness’ sake” inevitably means different things to different people. How, exactly, do you define “being good for goodness’ sake”, and who, and again I want names, is the authority for that definition?

To those that would name themselves as the final authority on “being good,” I have a question by way of sincere inquiry. If you are your own final authority on “being good,” how do you respond when someone who is their own final authority has a completely opposite view on the meaning of “being good?” Who is right in that situation, and why?

“Being good for goodness’ sake” is not enough. It’s too vague. What does it mean, in practical terms? Why does it mean that? By whose authority? And where, exactly, did they get that authority?

Just asking, because I genuinely don’t know.

I remember an old video game called “Actraiser.” Some of you might have played it, I don’t know. For those of you who didn’t, in the game, you played a God-like being called “The Master”, and your objective is to fight evil on one hand, and get your people to advance as a civilization on the other. Think of Sid Meier’s “Civilization” mixed with a platform game, and you’re on the right track. I have to give a spoiler here, but there’s no way to avoid it. At the end of the game, after you’ve finally defeated all the forces of evil, and after you’ve advanced your people as far as you possibly could, you go into the temple and find…nobody there. The people haven’t had to face evil, and they’ve advanced so far that they think they can make it on their own. We don’t have to worry about evil, and we have all this fancy technology…why do we need The Master anymore?

That is so, so spot-on for the times we live in. Panem et circenses, as Juvenal put it. We are incredibly blessed here in the United States: for most Americans, most basic needs are easily covered, which frees us up for other pursuits. What are we doing with those blessings? On the one hand, America is one of the most generous countries on Earth, both on an individual and a societal level. But on the other, we do seem to be heading for the end of Actraiser: so blessed that we end up dismissing God.

So, if Christmas decorations are coming out around town–and I see more of them by the day–then bring ’em on. My Trans-Siberian Orchestra tickets have just shipped out, and I’ll be seeing them on the 14th. I’m not to the point of “need a little Christmas right this very minute” yet, but I will be hauling out my tree pretty soon. It’s an artificial tree that’s pre-lit with white lights, and the only thing I add to it are even more lights–colored ones. It’s essentially a tree of nothing but light, and I love having it up in season. Decorating it is a major pain in the neck…and arms, and shoulders. There are so many wires that it’s ridiculous. But the end result is something to see.

I agree with Hicks’s conclusion that we need all the Christmas we can get. I’m reminded of a lyric by Trans-Siberian Orchestra: “If you want to arrange it, this world you can change it, if we could somehow make this Christmas thing last.” Christmas has a magic to it that has inspired people for centuries.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”–John 1:14, NRSV

It doesn’t get any more magical than that, folks.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving later this week, and officially begin the Christmas season, I want to wish my readers all the joys of the season.

Here’s to giving thanks to God for all the blessings we hold so dear. Here’s to family, no matter how imprefect it may be. Here’s to friends, those kindred souls who stay by our sides out of no other reason than love. Here’s to life, that greatest blessing of them all. Here’s to love, to being able to receive it, and more importantly, to being able to give it. Here’s to liberty, and having the freedom to enjoy it all.

And finally, here’s to dirty dishes! Wait a minute, what…?

Thank God for dirty dishes;
They have a tale to tell.
While others may go hungry,
We’re eating very well.
With home, and health, and happiness,
We shouldn’t have to fuss;
For, by this stack of evidence,
God’s very good to us.
–Author unknown

In case I don’t get to post between now and Thursday, you all have a happy Thanksgiving. And it’s not too early to say it, I don’t think: Merry Christmas.

Because it really is the season, now more than ever.




1. zelda - November 23, 2008

I really like this post, and I think the poem about dirty dishes would do very well for our prayer before we sit down to our meal on Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing it.

I had a conversation with some colleagues at work who were fussing about the early Christmas decorations, and I shared with them my theory that people were looking for a little good news in these times of bad news, and that it was really more of a statement of hope than of rushing the season.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Capital Spirit, as well as a blessed Advent season and a Merry Christmas.

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