Saturday, January 14, 2006

Having a lot to answer for at Christmas

It's been quiet here at the blog, I know. I've been busy, as they say, and I've had other things to do, including preparing to lead another Quakerism 101 course at our meeting (beginning 2-1).

But I haven't ignored the other Quaker blogs that have been busy over the past month with many rich and passionate postings about Christmas and, more recently about . . . well, hell, I can't even say what they're about without getting drawn in when what I think is really needed -- what I need, at least -- is a good long period of silent worship. Maybe I'll have something to add to the discussion once I've taken the time myself to shut up and listen. But not right now.

I am, though, ready to say a word about Christmas.

I am a Friend who keeps Christmas, openly and notoriously. I fully recognize the tension this creates with historic Friends' testimony against days and seasons. I could provide a rational explanation and defense: The Christmas the early Friends refused to observe is not the Christmas we have today, so the testimony is against a phantom. But I'd keep Christmas anyway.

Of the many ways I fail to be an exemplary Quaker, keeping Christmas is the failing I am least interested in reforming. (Well, maybe the testimony against music and vain amusements like card games are equally low on my list of things to change, but I'd give up Sheepshead before I'd give up Christmas.)

For one reason why, here is a ministry I gave at our meeting on Christmas Eve.

Years ago, I saw a public television program about the Tower of London. One part of the film told about the ravens that live at the Tower, and the legend that, if they ever fly away and abandon the Tower, England will fall.

In a typically English way, the government employs a man to tend the ravens. The filmmaker asked him "Do you really believe the legend?"

The old man looked the camera in the eye and said, "I can't say I do believe it and I can't say I don't. But I can say this. If I don't take care of these ravens, and if they do fly away, and if England does fall, I've got an awful lot to answer for, haven't I?"

That's the way I feel about Christmas. I can't say I do or don't believe in the incarnation, that God became human and came to walk among us; or that he was born in a barn; or that the angels announced the birth to his parents and shepherds who came to find him; or any of the rest of it.

But I can say this:

If I don't keep Christmas alive by telling the story , singing the songs, lighting the candles, burning the incense, preparing the food, giving the gifts, setting up the tree and bringing in evergreens, gathering with my family and friends in the dark to wait for the arrival of the Light; and if my failure deprives even one person -- in this generation or a future one -- of the experience of lifting the curtain that surrounds ordinary life or walking through the wardrobe and seeing -- even for a moment -- the reality on the other side with all of its promise and mystery, or of experiencing the birth of the Christ in their own heart, then I'd have an awful lot to answer for, wouldn't I?


Liz Opp said...

I like and appreciate your perspective on the time called Christmas. Glad you took some time to share them.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Peggy Senge Parsons said...

oh, Thank you and bless you.
Lewis' description of an enslaved nation; "Always winter - never Christmas" is just perfect to my thinking.