What I don’t want for Christmas
by Katie Funk Wiebe
I have a Christmas list—what I call my Christmas non-gift list. These are the things I don’t want for Christmas.
1. I don’t want less commercialization at Christmas. I have come to see buying and selling as a normal condition of our society. Like death and taxes, it will always be with us.The infant Jesus was born into a very commercial world. His adult ministry was performed in the midst of rank commercialism.
He watched the temple be abused by the money changers. He ejected a legion of devils from the man of the Gadarenes and sent them into a herd of swine. He was much aware that the village people were more concerned about their financial loss than the healing of the man. Jesus did not run away from commercialism or merely decry it.
I don’t want less commercialism, but I do want to know when its power is controlling my soul.I want the courage to resist the pressure to make endless card lists, gift lists, food lists, clothes lists and activity lists more important than people and their needs.The latter was Jesus’ concern.
2. I don’t want the mystery of God demystified. I don’t want the mystery of God incarnate reduced to a simple mathematical equation so that I can feed the data into a giant computer to find out why God loves sinful humanity, how God works in an individual’s life to bring awareness of forgiveness or even why a person hungers to know God better.
I do not deny the longing that overcomes a person to reach out into the darkness to feel that God has skin or to hear an audible voice—to prove he is real by my senses. Yet to have the revelation of God completely analyzed and reduced to concrete terms would bring the meeting of God and humanity to the level of an encounter with the grocery checkout person.
Within each of us is a constant pressure to analyze and systematize what we cannot fully understand.Some preachers can’t resist hammering the great truths of the Scripture into three-point alliterative sermons or simple propositions, although I admit that sometimes they help.
The great sweep of God’s relationship to humanity from Genesis to Revelation is sliced into dispensations. The experience of Christ’s Spirit indwelling the believers becomes a complicated diagram with circles and thrones and dots and arrows. Christ’s return shows up as a complicated chart with lines and curves.
All these may have their place at some time, yet to be able to systematize, organize and put into order gives me a sense of power and control, whether it is a Christmas shopping list or God’s revelation to humanity. To systematize means to control.
This Christmas I want to stand in awe and wonder with the shepherds and wise men at the glory of God coming to earth in the form of a baby. I want to experience with Isaiah “the Lord high and lifted up,” very high up, higher than I can understand.
To demystify God is to do away with faith and worship and to turn humanity into totally mechanical beings.
3. I don’t want things seen to become the evidence of things not seen. In Hebrews 11 the apostle Paul writes that our faith life is to be the evidence of the supernatural world—the things we cannot see with the physical eye. By faith we are to believe in Christ as Savior of the world.By faith we are to believe in his power to work through us.
I do not want jeweled crosses or lapel pins, badges and buttons, mottos and posters, bumper stickers and banners, resolutions and church constitutions to become the evidence of the Christ-life.
Instead, this Christmas I pray that a cup of cold water for a thirsty person,visiting an hour with a lonely older person,the gift of a coat, peace where there is bloodshed and bombing may be more clearly the “evidence of things not seen.”
4. Finally, this Christmas, in my 89th year, I do not want an end to questioning. I realize that often a person’s faith is judged valid to the extent that he or sheaccepts all ecclesiastical pronouncements without embarrassing questions. Too often a probing person makes others uncomfortable and is labeled “unspiritual” and out of order.
I believe we need more questioning about the church’s responsibility regarding racism, ageism, sexism, violence and rank injustice of all kinds, not just about issues related to human sexuality. We need disturbing questions that rouse us out of our lethargy and a readiness to follow the Spirit’s leading in the answers.
Here ends my non-list. Blessed Christmas to all.
Former Christian Leader columnist Katie Funk Wiebe, of Wichita, Kan., is the author of a dozen books and numerous articles and in her late 80s, is still on a limited speaking circuit. This essay is from her blog, Second Thoughts (http://kfwiebe.blogspot.com), which is about life as an octogenarian and is reprinted with permission.