I still have Christmas things to finish up. I've got Christmas poems to deliver to friends. This Thursday, my book club is coming over for a discussion of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I've got to get my house in some kind of order before that night. Tomorrow, I have a funeral to attend. Plus, I have a New Year's Eve party to put together. I love the holidays, but, when they're done, I usually need a vacation to recover.
As 2014 draws to a close, I have many things for which to be grateful. My kids are great. My wife has a job. I'm teaching poetry next semester. I've been nominated for the post of U. P. Poet Laureate again. Yes, this year has had more than its share of challenges. There has been so much upheaval and change, I barely recognize my current life. To be frank, I will not look back on these past 365 days fondly. However, God has given me the strength to endure and succeed in the face of a great deal of hardship.
Saint Marty's still standing, still laughing, still blogging.
Today's classic episode comes from the first season of Saint Marty:
December 28, 2010: The Holy Innocents
I hope you had a great Christmas, full of peace, joy, and enough baked goods to clog an artery. After all, that's what Christmas is supposed to be about--families gathered around fireplaces, toasting marshmallows, and singing "Away in the Manger" or "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," depending upon your spiritual inclinations. Really, Christmas is a time to celebrate and reflect upon all the blessings in your life. I believe most people don't do this enough.
But there's another side to Christmas, and today's feast is a reflection of it. Today, the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents. It's a day that's meant to honor all of the babies who were killed in Bethlehem by Herod's soldiers after the birth of Christ. In the whole Christmas narrative, this portion of the story doesn't get dwelled on too much. It's ugly, brutal, bloody, and sorrowful. It doesn't fit into the modern image of Christmas. Now, some historians and archaeologists will say that, outside of the gospels, there is not physical, verifiable proof that Herod's slaughter of the innocents ever took place. My response to that: it doesn't matter. This part of the story is as important a matter of faith as the donkeys, angels, shepherds, and kings.
This year, I was reminded over and over that Christmas wasn't meant for the "perfect" families and people of the world. It was meant for people who, like the mothers and fathers of Bethlehem, are dealing with inconceivable loss and pain. One family I know is dealing with the sudden death of its father/grandfather/husband. His loss came on the day we were supposed to celebrate the church's Sunday School Christmas program. When I showed up for worship December 24, I found out that the father of one of our choir members had died just an hour-and-a-half earlier. It was a heavy night.
Myself, I've been struggling to maintain my yuletide spirit, as well. As a worship leader, I kept losing musicians and singers through Advent. Some moved. Some had other commitments. On December 22, I lost my main guitarist. Band members kept dropping out like Republicans at a universal health care convention. It wasn't pretty. On Christmas day, I was trying to extricate one of my daughter's new toys from its box. In the process of sawing through a plastic clip with a serrated knife, I stabbed myself in the wrist. The knife sank in, came out, and the blood started pumping. A LOT of blood. So I ended up at the local ER, getting stitches and feeling like a stupid ass. My mashed potatoes got burned for dinner that night, filling the kitchen with smoke. On the following evening, a shelf collapsed in my mother's kitchen cupboards, sending all of the Corelle plates and bowls crashing down on top of me. I found myself standing in my stocking feet in a pile of glass shards. Later, as I was leaving to go home, I put on my brand new, L&L Bean winter coat and tried to zip it up. The zipper broke.
By December 27, I was ready to heave my tree out the window and shred the Christmas cards I'd received. I know Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, but all I'm celebrating right now is the half bottle of Baileys Irish Cream in my cupboard at home. I'm ready to join George Bailey on that bridge.
That's what Christmas was for me this year. Death. Disappointment. Self-mutilation. Destruction. I felt more kinship to the wailing mothers and fathers of Bethlehem than the shepherds or magi. In some ways, I think that's really appropriate.
Christ didn't come into the world to save the "perfect" people. He came into the world to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, as a friend likes to remind me. He came into the world for dumbasses with serrated knives.
Christmas is about the music of angel choirs in the heavens.
But Christmas is also about the weeping of the heartbroken in cold, dark streets.
Confessions of Saint Marty
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