Just Too Big to Fit in Church
Yet, that awesome divine reality is indeed the source of the extravagant Christmas merriment with spider-webbed trees in billions of tiny galaxies of twinkling lights. Instead of condemning such vivacious public manifestations, shouldn’t true believers instead be in joyful communion with the glittering grandeur of the pre-Christmas marketplace? Rejoice—Christmastide is uncontainable! In every neighborhood, reindeers, elves and nativity scenes miraculously appear on front lawns as pine forests come indoors and become magically bejeweled trees. The very air itself is melodious with old carols alongside yuletide songs and the pungent kitchen aromas of holiday foods and pastries. Imagination’s wildest fantasy is near exhausted in its attempt to reveal the inconceivable wonder of God assuming our human nature as God’s own! Christmastide being such, no wonder it can’t fit inside a church or the greatest cathedral.
The poet Coventry Patmore wrote, “…love raises the spirit above the sphere of reverence and worship into one of laughter and dalliance, a sphere in which the soul says: Shall I, a gnat which dances in Thy ray, dare to be reverent?”
Hilarity and dalliance—frivolity, untamed earthly fun, and lively polkas—are forbidden inside churches worshipping a remote, heaven-dwelling, ethereal God. Yet we insignificant gnats itch to dance about the news from Bethlehem but are “pew-trapped” poker-faced spectators patiently enduring repetitive rituals. The reason for this reality, says Alan Watts, is that we suffer “constipation of the bright emotions.”
When Christmas went to church, the sign on the door read, “No room in the inn!” So this all too human, jolly, lighthearted and danceable holiday pitched its merry three-ring-circus tent in the marketplace and our private homes. Fellow gnats, be freed of your churchy constipation, and with your bright emotions go to the circus. Join in the merrymaking carnival of God assuming our human nature with all its faults, primal urges, sensual delights and desire for justice and peace.
The bottom line of Christmas: Rejoice when you have a temptation of the flesh—and be confident, for your God shares it with you!