A Christmas Homily
Feast of lights and love, the family days of Christmas; “what to dine and how to dress”— oh, don’t we all just thrill up on the quirky-looking sweaters and find it all so amusing? And don’t we, just this season, take the necessity of “having a good time” all too seriously concerning all the consumerism attached, as it is almost obligatory to accept February’s Visa bill without any grudge, the late-Christmas-hangover? At least, most of the time “doin’ what ya wanna cuz it’s Xmas” has been, in my context, stepping just a little bit over the line; knowing how much I have and pushing the limit just a little.
This is the norm—I guess—for most of us Icelanders. And here we are, once again. Capitalism has taught us well, and our little shopping spree is just a symbol of our celebration of innocence, as we search our own infancy for acceptance with the idea of a charming infant in a manger as our abundant Saviour. With a smile. We have baby-Jesuses and Marias and Josephs luring us in, with the Wise Men in the windows in the overcrowded shopping malls of Reykjavík, along with all our modern era’s seasonal Santas, Yule Lads and Yule Cats. Nothing is sacred—so it seems—except on our personal level; our experience and the traditions that make up our own feast of light and love, with a variety in drinks and dining…
Or so it seems, as the Advent passes. It is a stressful time, when mixed emotions boil to the surface, old sorrows, tough memories, as we yet prepare for passing beyond the tragedy which life may seem to be sometimes into the glorious and peaceful nights around Christmas day. Those couple of days when our problems are set aside and seem unreal. Yes, these days are holy. In some sense. There is this hope attached, something not of this world. The compensation for all the stress is peace. A happy infantile smile. A Christ in us.
Still—as traditions halt—the secularized focus leads more and more onto the bigger picture, the myths and contexts that were here before; Winter Solstice has its place on December 21, the renewed Horus, son of the Sun, turns the cycle into rhythm at this point. Who needs this Church and Christ and traditions from that context while we have… another context. Or, let’s think again: What is the context of Christmas in a faith-based symbolism of the Western society we inhabit? Is it just a marketing feast for merchants and charity pimps, or maybe a little warm-up for the New Years party? Do we have to secularize it just to be politically correct, as the multicultural aspects concerning traditions built on faith question how Christian Christmas can be?
I don’t know, but there is something in the culture about how we treat certain traditions, which tells me they are less important, if they are faith-based. In my mind, there is no imposing a mindset of belief attached to singing Christmas songs that tell the Nativity story of Jesus. Or how detached can a culture become, if we keep the feast but ignore the fact of why it is a part of our culture? To me it is more important to understand what the entering of Christ into this world was supposed to mean, as that idea changed the world, and why it still has significance in the modern era that Christ may live inside me as he entered the world. Open your heart for the Christ in Christmas this year. It might just save your day.
A.M. Finnsson is a candidatus theologiae who works as a theological consultant to various cultural projects, ranging from strategy and development to fieldwork with Reykjavík’s homeless. He lives and works in the Westfjords of Iceland.