Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christmas with Kierkegaard

I love the extended end-of-year holiday season.  I enjoy everything about it, but I especially like Christmas.  Given a choice between the two major cultural-christian holidays, Easter and Christmas, I’d take Christmas every time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying “humbug” to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  In the framework of western philosophical and religious thought, Easter – or its equivalent – is inevitable.   Humanity seems inexorably drawn to reminders of our imperfection and alienation, our struggle to define the sacred, our emptiness apart from something greater than our self.  Easter is the perfect complement for such ruminations.  By contrast, the advent season is the antithesis of that.  Christmas reminds us that the story of humanity need not be bound up in the existential angst of uncertainty and despair.
It’s about innocence, new beginnings, gifts and celebrations. It’s about family and community.  When distilled to its essence Christmas is about us; a proclamation of the value of the human race.  It’s a season to celebrate our worth, our purpose.  It begins with an announcement, but not one made with the bravado of human hubris.  Rather it is a declaration from an other-worldly choir heralding “peace on earth, good will to all people”.  It is God’s messengers who usher in this season, their joyous song a reflection of what deity thinks about us, what he envisions for us, and what we should envision for ourselves. It is not a time of doubt and estrangement but of faith and community.  Fear not, we are told, for this is an occasion of good tiding, a time of great joy. 
As befits a celebration, a gift has been given. 
The miracle of Christmas may not lie so much in the fact of incarnation as in the expression of ultimate worth revealed in its effect - that the manger’s babe is a child of humanity.  Our merit, indeed our intrinsic value is revealed not in that God has come to visit with us but that He has become one of us, and more importantly, that he has become one of the least of us, a helpless child.  By this simple yet profound act God affirms his trust in us and the value of who we are.  Christmas is a reminder that life is pregnant with purpose and meaning and that each of us independently and as an organic whole is favored and deserving of good will and peace.

I do not want to see you through the darkened glass of tradition, nor through the eyes of today’s values and prejudices. I want to see you as you were, as you are, and as you always will be.   - Soren Kierkegaard

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