Parasites of Christmas

By , 18 December 2009 6:37 pm

Almost no one has read the whole of Proust’s 7 volume epic À la Recherche du Temps Perdu but any self respecting pseud knows that the protagonist’s sudden recollection of the past which is the subject of the book is triggered by him eating a cake, a petite Madeleine. I was reminded of this the other week when I was at a carol service in an ancient chapel. As it came to its conclusion there was one of those wonderful moments when they dimmed the lights so that the only lighting came from candles (or at least the electronic facsimiles approved by Health and Safety Police) and we all sang Once in Royal David’s City. And as we did I was suddenly reminded of so many Christmases in so many different places and I was almost overwhelmed by a great tidal wave of nostalgia. Just like Proust’s Petite Madeleine in fact. And the thought came to me: isn’t this part of the wonder and joy of Christmas? The carols, readings and rituals (turkey, tree, crackers, cards) of Christmas act as a sort of similar trigger. (As an aside, I suspect the role of Christmas as nostalgia-fest becomes more and more important as you get older.)

A few moments later I came to my senses and realised that I had fallen into a trap. I do not wish to knock memories or remembering for they are indeed good things but it is the good things, not bad things, that can form the greatest peril for the Christian. We need to remind ourselves that Christmas is not – of course – fundamentally about remembering our own past, although the recollection of memories may be part of the blessing of the season.

In fact when you think about it there are any number of parasites that cling on to Christmas trying to suck the goodness out of it. There are the parasites of family, food, presents, parties and fellowship and fine music. All good things; but all in danger of smothering the Baby.

I’ve worked a little bit in jungles and there when you finish your fieldwork one of the rules is to check yourself for any ticks and leeches draining out your blood. I’m afraid spiritual equivalents of such parasites cluster around the celebration of Christmas. I am no fan of banning Christmas (on that score Cromwell was wrong), but I do believe that it too should be carefully and regularly scrutinised for blood-sucking parasites.

No, I’m afraid one of our tasks every Christmas is to make sure that our good does not get in the way of God’s best. Christmas is all about remembering God’s great intervention in Jesus without which we would have no hope. It is also a very convenient occasion to look forward to the Second Advent. In fact the writer of Once in Royal David’s City gets the tone just right for the last verse (sometimes not surprisingly omitted) which goes thus

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.

(And if you are fortunate whoever is leading the music or playing the organ will at this point be theologically acute enough to up the volume to forte. )

Well whoever you are and wherever you are may you have a good Christmas. The sort of Christmas that will give you good memories. But may you never mistake the memories for the reality.

Chris

One Response to “Parasites of Christmas”

  1. Loren Warnemuende says:

    Merry Christmas, Chris!

    I’ve just been catching up on some of your blogs and wanted to say how much I appreciate your thoughts and Godly insights. I particularly appreciate the way you present your arguments, because while I don’t agree with some of your views I don’t come away from your blogs hot and bothered as I most often do listening to people expound on viewpoints that go against what I believe. Rather, I can say, “Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of it that way before! Something worth thinking about!”

    My husband and I discovered your “Lamb and Stars” series last spring, I believe, and thoroughly enjoyed them (even though we’re pre-trib, pre-mil folks :) ). We particularly liked the way you presented God’s messenger. I always like it when Christian fiction doesn’t fall into the “typical” grooves but pushes out the boundaries while still holding to the Truth. It is very clear to me that you truly know him who saved us!

    Thank you for sharing your work and world.

    In Him,
    Loren Warnemuende

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