For as long as I can remember I’ve had mixed feelings about holidays. As much as I love the change in rhythm, I’ve never been able to look past the fact that many of our holidays in the United States celebrate and venerate what may well be humanity’s greatest blunders.
If the story of the life of Jesus Christ is true, for instance, the fact that His birth His resurrection are celebrated gloss over the fact that He was rejected and executed by well-meaning, “good” men and women like you and me is thinly, but effectively whitewashed by stylized crèches, a hefty dose of commercialism, and a healthy admixture of pagan rituals (a bunny that lays eggs, really!?!) that divert our attention from the real meaning of the celebration.
Thanksgiving, too, is not without controversy. I was told as a school-aged child that Thanksgiving marks the day that the kind and helpful Native American Indians helped the Pilgrims by giving them food, showing them new farming techniques, all of which helped the Pilgrims survive harsh New England winters. We colored cute pictures of Pilgrims and Indians but we were never really told much about the near decimation of millions of Native Americans that soon followed. We celebrate Thanksgiving now as if the tragedy had never happened. Somehow family, food, and football make it seem justifiable.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against holidays as a rule, but I do feel it important that we not lose the underlying meaning of the time we take “off” from our normal routines. These holidays ought to teach our children how to be better people while allowing us to shrug off the cares of the world for long enough that we regain our perspective and focus on what truly matters.
When we scan the pages of human history, we see that we have made some pretty outrageous mistakes as a race. If we did indeed mock and attempt to remove the King of Kings from the earth because His talk and example of righteousness inconvenienced us and forced us to look at what we were doing wrong, then shame on us. Whether we rationalize our forefathers’ behavior 2,000 years ago by the thought that the whole thing was predestined and actually a gift is a personal decision, but to celebrate it and venerate it…isn’t that going a little too far? And if mass murder, forced relocations, and the appropriation of land were justifiable as the cost of progress, then say it like it is, but don’t stuff it and dress it up.
We can numb ourselves with sweet treats or tryptophan or make sweet songs and heartwarming traditions that gloss over these tragedies, but what good does that do, really? It makes us feel good at a certain level, but what good does it do? How does what we do in these precious times of family, reflection, and frivolity make the world a better place? Or less ambitiously, how do these times “off” bring us closer to understanding the hearts of those who gave so freely and selflessly of themselves?
I don’t feel I have all the answers to these questions, but I do feel it is important to raise these questions. My hope is that these thoughts will compel you to think a bit more about it yourself so that we can work together to take full advantage of the wonderful holiday times we are so privileged to enjoy. To do this we must understand the purpose, the “reason for the season” as they say, but in a way that goes deeper than we traditionally have and typically do.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the holidays and how we can make better use of them! Don’t be shy…