Keb’ Mo’s Christmas album, Moonlight, Mistletoe and You is one of the best Christmas albums you’ll hear – it’s a bit schmaltzy, a bit jazzy, it’s got Santa Claus, children singing, mistletoe – and it’s good fun. Not least Christmas is Really Annoying.
I get it, Keb’ – I do. Christmas has become really annoying. The advertisers are at it from after Hallow’een, the shops are decorated six weeks in advance, and – those dreadful Christmas pop songs blare out everywhere you go, from the beginning of December or earlier. Noddy Holder, Michael Bubble, Wham, Maria Carey, John Lennon – and worst of all, the dreaded Pogues. Lord, save us.
But Keb’ Mo’s short, amusing little song points to some real underlying problems with what Christmas has become: “All my credit cards are maxed, Running here, running there, no time to relax… They advertise all year long.” Too bad that’s what it’s become – relentless pressurized advertising and marketing from companies desperate to maximize seasonal returns, and frenetic consumerism, sometimes leaving families in terrible debt. Then Mo’ drops in the explosive little line, “Let’s apologize to Jesus.”
As Jesus-rocker Larry Norman says in his song Christmastime:
It used to be the birthday of the Man who saved our necks
It’s Christmas time
Now it stands for Santa Claus they spell it with an X
It’s Christmas time, it’s Christmas time.
Of all times, December is the most difficult to disentangle ourselves from the pull of spending on ourselves and our own, from self-indulgence and running around like headless chickens. There’s no calm, there’s no peace on earth.
Even when we get beyond the commercialism to some semblance of the Christmas story, it’s easy to just get a sentimental glow as we gaze at a sanitized stable scene. Consider poet Steve Turner’s Christmas is Really for the Children:
Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.
Easter, on the other hand, he says, all whips, blood, nails, politics, and the sins of the world, is definitely not for children. But, says Turner, it’s a mistake to miss the connection:
Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.
Making the connection to God’s bigger story is where we get to the heart of Christmas – a story that stretches back to a good creation gone wrong and forward to God’s mission through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection to bring hope, joy and peace on earth.
And the challenge – and wonder – is to see ourselves caught up in this story – free from December’s mindless, frantic shopping and partying – and freed to focus on others, some in desperate need, and freed to pursue peace. Refugees, immigrants, the homeless, people we know who are sick or newly bereaved all cry out for our attention, our time, our resources.
So, yeah, Christmas – Christmas as what it’s become – is really annoying. Time to say sorry to Jesus?