Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some things must die....

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa. We never did presents from Santa as a child, everything was neatly labeled with the giver and the recipient. I know at some point I gave up old St. Nick and entered into the deeper mysteries of Christmas. Giving up childish things didn't diminish my Christmas experience, it just refocused it.

In Re-Enchanting Christianity Dave Tomlinson writes:

'The ancient Hopi people of North America have a fascinating rite of passage for their children as they move into young adulthood. Throughout their life these children have been familiar with the Kachinas, the tribe's masked holy men, who bless the corn harvest and bring toys and gifts for the children like Santa Claus. But one night as the children are brought into the sacred circle, something different occurs: on this occasion, instead of giving them gifts, the Kachinas simply remove their masks, revealing the fact that these figures whom the children thought were gods are actually their family and neighbors - people whom they see every day. It is a moment of sacred disenchantment, when childish naivety gives way to grown up reality.'
(Image taken from this website here)

I'm not exactly sure when I stopped believing in the Christianity of my childhood (strongly Fundamentalist, Conservative and Evangelical). All I know was that I went through a long period of doubt and depression where Atheism seemed very attractive. The Fundamentalism that I embraced did not embrace me back. My inner landscape seemed so different from everyone else that believing no longer seemed an option.

Fortunately the Grace of God is so much larger than I believed. God is far more liberal with his grace than I ever could have imagined. Even though wandering away from Fundamentalism felt like wandering into Apostasy, some beliefs need to die. - When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things. 1 Cor 13:11 But nobody ever gave me a road map for dying. As Dave Tomlinson goes on to say:

'Sadly, the church offers no equivalent of the Hopi ritual; there is no 'Service of Disenchantment' to help us figure out what are the 'childish things' about Christianity that should be left behind, and what are the things we need to hold on to. Indeed, paradoxically, experiencing disenchantment with the christian faith is actually fundamental to growing as a christian. It is the reality check that brings into question all that we have simply taken for granted, the acid bath that purges naive assumptions, false religious pretensions and unthinking conformity.'

Working for a church means Christmas comes early- I was composing new christmas carols while everyone else was celebrating Labor Day. It feels like I don't celebrate Christmas, I just facilitate it for others. It can be difficult to enter into the 'Spirit of the Season' (whatever that means), when you are running from planning meeting to worship service, from Children's Musical to Choir rehearsal. The final push to Christmas Day is upon me and I'm feeling a bit indifferent to the whole thing, I've not become Scrooge of the Grinch, but my main focus is on my January vacation. The only Christmas decoration up at the house is a wreath on the door, even my beloved Veggie Tales Nativity set still languishes in its box.

It seems that even my Christmas Celebration is in the process of dying and being transformed into something new. I've made Christmas Cake for the first time since I was 17. Some traditions are being revived, others are up for review and are found lacking in substance. I"m not sure what will emerge the other end, but as the 'death of Santa' led me to a deeper experience of Christmas and the 'death of fundamentalism' led me to a deeper experience of the divine mystery of God I'm finally learning to trust the work that happens in my inner life.

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