Mixed-up theology

So. Things have calmed down significantly Chez Soup since I flipped out about not having time to blog.  All the pre-Christmas prep was completed more or less on time.  Santa’s only real SNAFU was that she he brought an Xbox 360 (which his elves refurbished and resold on eBay) but forgot to procure a game to play on it. (All together now: D’OH!) Fortunately, Son was able to borrow a game from an out-of-town neighbor, and with my promise to take him shopping to buy THE ONE GAME that he REALLY WANTED, all was again right with the world. In fact, he said not once, but twice, “This is the best Christmas EVER!” And coming from a hard-to-impress tween, that meant a lot to us. I mean, to Santa.

Meanwhile, word has reached the far corners of the rodent community that it’s DANGEROUS in them there kitchen drawers! We’ve had nary a sign of those clever little dog food-hoarding invaders for the past few days.  Which is good, because I’m getting tired of retrieving the drawers’ contents from various piles and boxes located in other rooms. Maybe we’ll be able to reassemble things soon. Thanks, readers, for all the hints! Especially to the alarmingly knowledgeable Laura. I don’t want to know how she knows so much about mouse carnage but am oh so grateful she shared some tips.

Christmas is a time of traditions, and, like you, I found myself reminiscing about Christmases past. In particular, I was remembering Christmas Eve several years ago. We had recently relocated to Pennsylvania and had not yet found a church where we wanted to worship, so we were guests at a large, mainstream protestant denomination church. The service was billed as a “family” service and was to feature a dramatic musical presentation. That sounds nice, we thought. Something different. Maybe the kids will enjoy it.

Because Christmas is not the time to be unkind, I will simply say this: It was a lot longer than it needed to be. Especially for a presentation that was supposed to appeal to children.  But the real problem for us was in the story’s plot, for you see, the children were trying to help SANTA CLAUS find the TRUE MEANING of CHRISTMAS, and in the end, they had successfully converted Santa to understand that the birth of the baby Jesus was the reason for Christmas.

And Santa was all, “Oh, of course, you’re right! NOW I understand!” and slapped his forehead, then gave all of the toys in his sleigh to the less fortunate, dismissed the elves, divested himself of all his worldly possessions, gave all his money to the church, and became a monk, THE END.

Um…. Seriously??? Were we the only ones who recognized the obvious clash of the secular traditions with the religious theology?  Hard enough to work that out in our own brains, let alone explain it to These Kids Nowadays, and this little play was not helping our cause one bit.

Curt and I made the mistake of making eye contact and then it was all we could do to not giggle. He and I were both brought up in the church, and our families raised us observing both secular and religious traditions.  And, while we “got it,” we still agree that in many cases, it feels tidier to keep the secular traditions separate from the religious. For example, we both grew up attending church-hosted HALLOWEEN parties.  Huh?  A holiday with Pagan roots, in the church basement? The candy corn be with you. And also with you! Trick or Treat, Amen!

Or perhaps even better: In my little country church, there was an annual Easter EGG HUNT, the day after Good Friday, in the cemetery. I kid you not. The Church Moms would hard-boil and dye real eggs and hide them amongst the tombstones, and the little kids would scramble about, retrieving them.  Well, most of them. The guys who were in charge of mowing the grass in the cemetery would inevitably discover one or two come June or July. Because nothing says “The Lord is Risen Indeed!” like a rotting chicken egg!

Where was I? Oh, yes. So there we were, attempting reverence, yet having to fight the urge to roll our eyes at the thought of Santa being Born Again, when the ushers began handing out neon glow sticks. Now, for the uninitiated, many Christmas Eve services feature candles, and the worshippers pass the flame to each other in order to represent Christ’s light spreading throughout the world.  It’s a lovely, symbolic tradition. At family services, many churches opt for little flashlights because open flames and children do not mix. But this church? GLOW STICKS. So we waved our neon purple and green and orange glow sticks, singing Silent Night, because, really – nothing says “Jesus is Born” like a symbolic flame small plastic tube filled with glowing chemicals.

The minister dismissed the crowd with the traditional instruction to “carry the light of Christ into the world”, which feels great when it’s a flame but a little bit funky when it’s a glow stick.  Nevertheless,  we tucked the light of Christ into our pockets exited the building even more confused than ever about how to reconcile the “reason for the season” with the consumeristic gift-fest that Christmas seems to have become, and struggled to find words to explain to the children that these small, imported glow sticks actually represented the earliest beginnings of Christianity.

We piled into the car and joined the line of traffic that was attempting to leave the area.  There were a couple of helpful men in orange vests, waving those lighted stick-thingys to send cars through the intersection.   I noticed one of the guys had one large stick in his left hand, and in his right hand? He was using one of the church service glow sticks to provide direction to the vehicles. Yes – he was directing traffic with THE LIGHT OF CHRIST.

I’m not sure that’s what the minister meant, but hey, you can read whatever you want into that bit of confused theology.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the unambiguously secular New Year’s Eve party.  Fireworks? Guns? Noisemakers? Champagne? Nothing confusing about that.

19 thoughts on “Mixed-up theology

  1. Oh my gosh, loved the guy directing traffic with the light of Christ! Great story…

    We got the kids Rock Band for the XBOX 360 and…we parents love to play too! Most are classic rock songs. It’s a little pricey up front, but we have got our money’s worth as we ALL play it.

    Secret confession: I love to play the Rock Band drums! :)

  2. Charlcie – we have Rock Band for Wii and – not-so-secret confession – step back from the microphone because I am the singer!! We played it with my nieces all weekend. LOVE IT!

  3. OMG, I can’t believe it !! How funny ! Your dad and I would have laughed our butts off in a situation like that ! Christ the traffic cop. Or Santa-Jesus. Geez ! (Do you know that Geez is a way of saying Jesus without saying it? And Gee Whiz is short for “God’s Wounds, ” also considered profanity back in the day. And there is also “zounds’ (as in comics) which is short for God’s wounds” also a profanity, which is way more than you wanted to know. ) Funny piece !!

  4. CSM – we did that, except it was at the Bruce Springsteen concert. I couldn’t believe all of us whipped out our glowing screens at the same time. Why, back in my day, we woulda just used a Bic lighter!

    Mom – we laughed like loons and the boys were all, wha?… I did know that Geez and Gee Whiz were variations, but didn’t know it was God’s wounds though. Funny, making up substitute curses. Littlest son has been warned (like his older brothers before him) that “stupid” is not allowed in our house, at least not until he learns the difference between calling a person that, and calling a thing that. Well, now he will say, “That’s STOO…!” to see if he can get away with it. Been trying to explain that it’s all the same thing, but not making much progress.

  5. I have adult-onset-ADD but I saw Mixed-Up, rodent community, DANGEROUS andThe End. (This is a very troubling story, indeed.)

    I got scared.

    If I can help in any way, send smoke signals down the bay.

    We used to do the Easter egg hunts in the grave yard too. Go figure. The symbolism was something else.

  6. Meg: well that’s OK because Christ had very healthy LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.

    Mom (in-law): actually, this is the other meaning of “whiz,” as in “genius.” Cheese whiz is thus a Genius & Holy Cheese Snack Product. QED.

  7. Way off on a tangent here but did someone say “viscous paste”? I thought so:

    Cheez Whiz is a thick processed cheese sauce or spread sold by Kraft Foods. It was developed by a team led by food scientist Edwin Traisman (1915–2007) and was first marketed in 1953.[1]

    The bright yellow, viscous paste usually comes in a glass jar, and is used as a topping for corn chips, hot dogs, cheesesteaks, celery, and other foods.

  8. Whiz also means to travel swiftly. Soo, Swiftly traveling genius Holy Cheese Snack Product.
    Also used on authentic Phillie cheese steaks. Accept no other.

  9. Hmm, do you think mice like Cheez Whiz? CSM, I would have expected you to recommend something hifalutin, like Stilton or smoked Gouda or something like that. Last I checked, we were oh-fer last night too, so maybe they’ve vacated Chez Soup for other more hospitable digs? We can only hope.

  10. Meg, this is a great story! Great! It is very THis American LIfe. You should send it to them.
    I wish you and Curt a very Happy New Year. I look forward to more stories from you. You do stories right.

  11. CSM – with all due respect, I’m not really concerned about the mice’s pain. Plus – what a waste of a good gin-soaked olive that would be!

    Suz – thanks, really – THANKS! You are too kind. I’ll get this in the mail to Ira right away. ;-) Happy new year to you, too!

  12. Hahaha! I love telling people about our Easter egg hunts in the cemetary. Heh.

    Santa in church is bad enough, but glow sticks?? Wow. It would have been really hard not to crack up.

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