Bah Humbug!


by Ben Kinchlow

Over-extended credit cards, no place to park, wet snow, rude clerks, grumpy children, pine tree needles falling on the carpet, dissatisfied gift recipients, and ungrateful kids. "Not another necktie!"Returned sweaters with the after-Christmas "returns"crowd, electronic presents that don’t work, and the VCR you got flashing 12:00 and nobody knows how to set it.

They started getting you ready this year at Halloween. By the first of November, Christmas trees (that are supposed to last till New Year’s) are already cut and stacked at the supermarket. Santa is in the malls, Christmas carols are being heard over Halloween noises, your children and grandchildren are already making a list and checking it twice (on their Pentium II computers). and, your entire Christmas budget (if you have one) has to be spent on the first two kids on your list - if you get them what they want. On top of all this, you’ve just finished (hopefully) paying off last year’s bag of goodies "from Santa". "Happy Holidays!"Ho, ho, ho!

I saw a banner in a store window a couple of years ago... "Jesus is the reason for the season.".... and although I knew this (don’t we all?) it struck me afresh when I read it. Somehow, this simple truth has gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of what we traditionally refer to as the "Christmas season". Merchants build their entire year’s profitability around the orgies of holiday buying. The suicide rate spikes among the elderly and the lonely, robberies increase, child abuse rates go up, and the first steps toward divorce often begin over some vague holiday season disappointment. Our debt load is increased and our children are taught lessons bordering on greed and lust. "Jesus is the reason for this season?"I don’t think so.

Could it be that we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the tinsel and trappings the world puts around the schools’ "winter break?" (no longer "Christmas holiday"... separation of church and state, you know). Could we have somehow unintentionally lost our grasp of the true meaning of Christmas morning? There is a classic Dr. Seuss Christmas program, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas". Not in the least religious, quotes no Scripture, makes no mention of the birth of the Saviour of the world. But, nevertheless, makes the point very eloquently. The Grinch would stop Christmas by stealing everyone’s gifts, and he was successful in his task. So, on Christmas morning he waited to hear the cries of anguish and disappointment from the village below and instead, he heard singing. "How could this be?", he wondered. How could this be? No gifts, no toys, no fancy wrappings, nothing! Yet Christmas came.... anyway. And isn’t that really what Christmas is all about?

The real Christmas came (probably not even in December) in a field outside a small Middle East village. I’ve been there. It is a most inconsequential place. It had nothing to mark it as the most significant spot on the face of the earth. No bright lights or beautifully wrapped gifts. No feasts. No special jolly fat men in red and white. No flying animals. Only some lonely shepherds "keeping watch over their flocks by night". Then suddenly an announcement... "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all nations. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."And suddenly there was a celebration. A celebration unparalleled in the history of mankind. For "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!’"

Hey, now THAT’s Christmas! You know... I feel better already. Not bah humbug, but a real appreciation for the season. Yeah, that’s why there are lights, and singing, and celebration. Presents or no.... Christmas comes. Ain’t it great?! Hallelujah!