Saturday, December 24, 2005
looking for that Christmas spirit
The above is a picture of some of the cards I answered from Angela's Japanese kids that I mentioned in this post. From a country whose idea of Christmas is very different than ours (it's a couple's holiday), it's interesting how familiar the kids are at least with the Corporate American ideas of Christmas - morbidly obese bearded old guy in a red suit, snowmen, decorated pine tree, and presents... oh yes, presents.
However even being back "home", I still can't shake some of the same feelings I had when I spent Christmas in Japan. The difference I think comes from the expectancy that I had then - at least I knew I'd Christmas abroad would be different and I was mentally prepared for it. So maybe being home here in Seattle, I'd expect to feel different.
When I was a kid, I never could understand why some adults would hate Christmas. In my brain, I couldn't imagine any feeling of happiness greater than ripping the wrapping paper off my presents to see the new Transformer, LEGO, or Nintendo game underneath. Christmas was a magical time of no school, and lots of time home, spending time with my family. My only inklings of the future came when I became old to read the cards on my gifts "To Garrett... for your birthday AND Christmas". Bleh.
Now that I'm older, I feel like I can understand some people's dislike of Christmas. Besides being an incredibly over-commercialized holiday, for some people Christmas and the holiday seasons are sad reminders of things like broken relationships, family and friends who've died and are gone, or more than that, the closeness of Christmas to the end of year forces people to look back at everything that's happened over the course of the year. For some people, that might be a happy exercise - graduation from school, a promotion at work, an engagement or wedding... for those whose outlook is more on the pessimistic side, remembering the course of a bad year can be as depressing as it gets.
I've never been a rainbow and roses sort of guy, but I suppose part of the numbness I feel right now has to do with a lot of how the past year went. I remember writing this entry last year and feeling a sense of cautious hope at coming home to Seattle, but a year later, I find myself in the strange position of being less hopeful and more cautious. I would've thought the euphoria of being home and getting into grad school would have helped, but not really.
Of course, the core issue of Christmas that always comes to the forefront of my mind is, "What does the arrival of Jesus Christ in this world really mean? What is my meager life in light of God's incarnation?". My church's youth minister, Keone, gave an interesting message this past Sunday about the wonder and the mystery of Jesus' incarnation, which the specifics of have been a divisive issue since the history of early Christianity (look up Gnostic, Arian, & Nestorian heresies for more info).
Specific theological questions aside, a familiar theme that often gets repeated during Christmas sermons is that God, by coming to world in human form, by being born into a poor family of a ethnic minority in a massive empire (Jews in Pax Romana), wanted to empathize with humanity. He wanted to know and experience firsthand the human condition, which of course leads back to my original question - if one of the reasons the Lord Himself came to the Earth was to empathize with humanity, does He empathize with me?
I want to say yes. I want to believe that God's love, mercy, justice, and compassion are intimately connected with His understanding of what it's like to be to human - to be born, to be hungry, to be persecuted, to suffer, and to die. I just wish trusting in the activeness of His empathy wasn't so hard, because as much as I intellectually understand it, the less of it I see in life, the harder it is to believe.
It's sort of like this - two men are waiting at a corner in the middle of winter in a busy city. There's a screeching of tires on the ice and they turn to see a young child in a crosswalk hit by a sliding car. The two men rush immediately to the side of the fallen child. The first man shakes his head, sighs, and with hands on hips says, "That's horrible... too bad for you, kid. I feel sorry this happened." The second man takes off his jacket and puts it around the kid, calls 911 on his cellphone, and cradles the child, moving him out of the street.
Which of the two do you think really showed real empathy?
I guess my interpretation of the Christmas spirit is different than most. I don't want to be "head shaker". I'd rather be someone who takes off his coat.
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