eNewsletter Feature Story – November 24, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards… and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy.
I always end up feeling depressed.”
– Charlie Brown in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” which first aired December 9, 1965
If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas on television in 1965. I know I watched it, because to this day my mom tells the story of me being mesmerized by the music and overjoyed at the antics of Snoopy. To be honest, though, my first recollection of watching it was a few years later, when the thought of someone being unhappy about Christmas seemed so preposterous to me that it was almost inconceivable.
I mean, it was Christmas! How could anyone be glum about Christmas?
I usually marked the beginning of the season with the arrival of the Sears Giant Wish Book toy catalog. If you had told me today that Sears and that wonderful catalog would be tossed in the recycling bin of history in my lifetime, I would have suggested you needed serious psychological intervention.
Then came the advent of an endless parade of TV specials involving fantastical Christmas characters (like Little Cindy Lou Who of Whoville), dramatic storylines (like the blizzard that’s going to cancel Santa’s arrival), and tangential holidays (New Year’s Eve or the Winter solstice). While not an introvert, I was also not terribly outgoing socially. As a result, I am pretty sure I watched every Christmas TV special at least a dozen times over the years between kindergarten and high school graduation.
I take no great pride in still being able to sing the Holiday jingles from at least a half-dozen different perfume commercials that aired throughout the prime Christmas shopping season (“I can’t seem to forget you, your Windsong stays on my mind…”). After several years of receiving giant bottles of “As Seen on TV” perfumes, my mom finally had to explain that just because a perfume had a jingle didn’t mean it was particularly fancy or pleasant smelling.
And, oh, the amazing Christmas dessert offerings and other edible treats: peppermint bark, gingerbread houses, and pies, pies, pies!
Even after I turned my life over to Jesus in college (in thought, initially, if not in deed), I still held the Great American Christmas in high regard, and was reasonably sure the plotlines of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town were drawn from some hidden text I would eventually find nestled somewhere in the Scriptures.
After all, Christmas was the story of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Good News of peace on earth, goodwill to men (thank you, Linus).
It wasn’t until I experienced a broken engagement, a series of my own moral failings, and relatively serious financial challenges, that I began to feel as though the Holiday lights were dimming for me. I realized no gift under the tree or tucked in a stocking would ever really be truly, deeply satisfying.
For many of us, Christmas today is as much about drowning out the din of commercialism, the sadness of world affairs (enveloped in a pandemic keeping many of us from having time with those we love), and the reality that our lives are not all we had once hoped for.
If you’ve spent any time at First Pres around the Christmas season, you know we put Jesus at the very center of our celebration, recognizing that his birth brought with it both joy and sorrow, miracles and tragedy, eternal answers and present-day questions.
This Sunday’s worship service marks the beginning of Advent, and our theme this year is “Prepare Him Room.” The Adult Discipleship Committee has arranged for David Ivaska (long-time FPCE member and author of the book Be Not Afraid) to lead the annual Advent adult education class.
This year’s class is entitled “Tough Questions at Christmas – Surprised by Hope, Love, Joy & Peace.”
Over four weeks, David will take us through the Christmas narrative and help us examine the questions raised by various major participants: Zechariah, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon, Anna, and the weeping mothers of Bethlehem will draw us to the important and often difficult questions raised by the miracle of God coming to earth as a child and changing not only human history but all of eternity.
You can learn more about the class by clicking here, and it will be available on Zoom for those who are unable to attend in person each Sunday.
I still love Christmas and all the traditions of the season. One of my life’s dreams is to have a house whose Christmas lights can be seen from space (seriously, though I am ready to let that dream die). I’m always ready to string lights beginning in September (my wife says that’s tacky), start shopping for just the right presents in October (the sales haven’t started by then), and set the Christmas Day menu the day after Halloween.
Having lost four family members — including my dad — over the last 12 months, this year’s celebration will be bittersweet. But the sweetness will come from the joy of knowing that my hope is not in having a house that glows on the horizon, but the promise that the same God who set the stars in motion and rules the seasons loves us so much he came and died to remove the separation between us and Him.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. We hope to see you this Sunday, in person or online.
FPCE Director of Communications