FIRST-PERSON: Christmas curmudgeons
I love almost everything about Christmas. I love the nativity scenes, the displays of lights, the cool weather, the festive clothing, the songs (well, most of them), the carols, the special foods, the candies and pastries, the church services, the pageants, the gift-giving and even the crowded malls.
I love the high-flying decorations downtowns attach to street lamps and the happy songs about snow-falling and sleigh-riding even though I live in the too-warm South, and I even enjoy stories about Santa Claus. I love the Christmas specials on television, including the cartoons about Peanuts and Frosty and Rudolph (not that I actually watch them, but I like knowing they're there).
If you feel called to point out all that is wrong about this happiest of all seasons, you will need to turn to someone else, because I love Christmas.
However, scattered here and there among the family of God you will find curmudgeons. These are well-meaning brothers and sisters who take it as their calling in life to give a "Bah! Humbug!" to this season, pointing out its historical errors, humanistic elements and commercial excesses.
They love to remind us that Jesus was not actually born on the 25th of December, so we shouldn't be celebrating His birthday then. We respond that one time is as good as another!
They assure us we don't even know the year of His birth, since historians say Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. We answer, "What does it matter?"
They question the science behind the star of Bethlehem and the identity of the Magi. We answer, "However God did it, that's good enough for us."
They love to point out how wrong some of our carols are and how our Christmas cards err in placing the Magi in the stable alongside the shepherds, since Matthew 2:11 says the holy family was in a house by the time they arrived in Bethlehem. We agree, but why nitpick? No one gets his theology from a greeting card.
They enjoy calling our attention to the pagan origins of Christmas. We answer that God made this day too, and we will rejoice in it and be glad. We surrender no days to the pagans; they're all God's! Even so, just as the Lord redeemed us from our paganism, He can do the same with Dec. 25.
And Christmas is just too commercialized for their comfort. Sure it is, in many ways. But we balance it by showering the less fortunate with love-gifts and making a generous gift to the missions offering!
"Curmudgeon" is an interesting word. It means a nitpicker, sorehead, killjoy, fault-finder, quibbler. The list of synonyms seems endless. The actual origin of the word is unknown, from the sources I checked. Whatever the word means, curmudgeons occupy pews in every church and the rest of us have to deal with them.
Among our Lord's little entourage, Judas was the curmudgeon. Watch him in this scene from a day in the life of our Lord:
"Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected. 'Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.' He did not say this because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief..." (John 12:1-8).
Imagine this sorehead -- my favorite synonym for curmudgeon -- criticizing someone for loving Jesus too much! Come to think of it, that negativity still exists toward showing too much enthusiasm in church, raising our hands or shouting.
Curmudgeons serve to keep the rest of us anchored to reality, lest we overdose on joy and be raptured by our praise. (Smiley-face goes here.)
But Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, do not put these people in leadership positions, lest the young and impressionable be influenced by their Scrooge-ness.
Christmas is a time of great joy, of deep laughter, of celebrating and of remembering with gratitude the greatest event in the history of this small planet: the arrival of the Son of God Himself. His coming was the best thing ever.
There are no words rich enough to describe the significance of the Bethlehem event, no songs good enough to be worthy of Him and no praise high enough to satisfy the grateful heart that is forever in love with Jesus.
Joe McKeever, on the Web at www.joemckeever.com, is a Baptist Press cartoonist and columnist, a former longtime pastor and former director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).