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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa Responds to Critics of Creationism and The Need for Christmas Silliness and Absurdity

Okay, here's the thing: I have shamelessly stolen this cartoon from MADPRIEST's blog (he's graciously given permission to take whatever we want/need while ungraciously insisting that we give him credit, so there you are, Jonathan, darling) because, for many, many people, this is decidedly NOT "the most wonderful time of the year."

I suspect it's very much the same for pastors everywhere. We hear more heartbreaking stories per day during the last week in Advent, Christmastide and during Holy Week, than at any other time in the year.

There hasn't been a morning this week, for example, when I've been coming into my office, key in the door, when someone "just drops by" and ends up weeping in my arms.

"I've been downsized."

"My mother has been diagnosed with Cancer."

"My uncle had a heart attack and is in the hospital. My aunt died three years ago this week. Gee, do you think there's any connection there?"

"My father's last remaining relative just died - we're flying out for the funeral on Christmas Eve so we won't be home for any of the services. I'm so sorry . . . . I'd so much rather be here . . . ."

And so it goes.

This results in what I call the "Pastoral Silliness Impulse." Now, more than ever, pastors and those of the Baptized who are in positions of pastoral leadership and trust whom I know and love and have any health within them have an almost uncontrollable impulse for that which is silly.

Personally, it will not be much longer before I move past the impulse for the silly and begin to crave the absurd. You know, the kind of stuff that makes you laugh right out loud at that which, at least on the surface, may seem totally lacking in any humor whatsoever.

Believe it or not, it gives me some balance.

Now, admittedly, there is a fine line between "silly" and "absurd." The line is even thinner between good taste and bad, and much of what is silly and abusurd Christmas humor dwells in that space.

An example? Sure!

There is a house on King's Road, right over the Chatham line and into Madison (of course!) which has been decorated with more "holiday kitsch" than is aboslutley necessary.

I used the term "holiday kitsch" intentionally. This is obviously a home of a mixed marriage - Christian and Jew - with an obvious sense of the silly and absurd - which places their sense of 'good taste' in serious jeopardy.

There is a lovely electical Menorah which is mounted on the house, just to the left of the large picture window which boasts a well-decorated Christmas tree inside the living room. I've driven by and watched as every day, another blue light is lit on the Menorah, marking the Eight Days of Chanukah.

That's neither silly nor absurd. This is:

Yesterday, there appeared on the Menorah an image of the backside of Santa who has seemingly run smack-dab into the side of the house and hangs there, in the middle of the Menorah, by his fingertips.

This has not interferred with either the progression of lighting of the Menorah or the presence of the Christmas tree in the window.

Wouldn't you just LOVE to know the story behind that one?

I was laughing so hard, I had to pull over to the side of the road.

Thank goodness this has come into my life at this time. For the past three Christmases, a man on my street has had a lovely, tasteful (this is Chatham, of course) display of two white reindeer mounted on his front lawn. One looks as if she is eating grass, head bowed and front feet down, with the other, obviously proud male, stands tall, looking in the other direction, to protect his mate. A lovely little Christmas tableau. I've suspected it is also giving an unintended message about the nature of this "holy family" - or, at least, how someone in that household sees itself.

Except, in the middle of the night, every day with astonishing regularity, someone comes by and rearranges the tableau. Instead of being mounted on the lawn in pastoral family-values delight, the morning's light reveals another image: the front end of male reindeer is mounted on the back end of the female reindeer, providing yet another message about what at least one of the neighbors thinks is the nature of this "holy family."

That display has not gone up in front of that house this year. Gee, do you think this has anything to do with the fact that the husband was caught in a torrid affair with one of our neighbors and the wife has filed for divorce?

Nah! That's absurd!


And so, I laugh. "Ho Ho Ho" is not necessarily "Ha Ha Ha" - if you know what I mean.

So, if you or the pastor you know and love seems a bit off base this year, please try to understand. The best remedy I know is to dish up a healthy serving of the silly. Move to the absurd as needed. It will be a mercy and a blessing.

After all, asking people to believe in things like the Immaculate Conception and Incarnation of God is all the evidence you really need that the closer you move to God, the nearer you get to the heart of The Absurd.

As you consider The Absurd, reflect for a moment on this quote from Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, MIXED BLESSINGS:

"Mary was smart enough or naive enough to believe what was said to her in what seemed like a dream and believed in her Holy Child even before he was more than a dollop of cells in her womb. Which only goes to show that once you let God in - there's no telling, no telling at all - what will come out."

Somebody in the church give me an, "Amen."

Note: Apparently, I did not adhere strictly to the requesst by MADPRIEST. If the link above does not work, visit his site at before he trips the light fantastic and becomes completely insane.


MadPriest said...

If you had bothered to read the small print you would have read the line - a link would be nice but it's not compulsory. Huh!

Looks good on your site, though - thanks.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

There, there, darling. It's been done. Touchy, lot aren't we today? Someone ship some silliness across the pond for our poor Madpriest.

Ellie Finlay said...

This is a good and moving piece, Elizabeth. I have a ministry of counseling and spiritual direction. Yesterday, I saw two new people for the first time. One had just been diagnosed with cancer. Another is a hospice chaplain who was at the point of overwhelm from not having anyone to talk to herself. Yes, I really appreciate silliness right now. Today's my day off and even though I haven't finished my Christmas shopping I just need to de-compress from the week. Christmas will just have to wait.