Category Archives: Christmas

Anarchy and Christmas: No Gods! No Masters! Just a Baby in a Food Trough (Or…How Christmas is Witchcraft)

Watch Videos:

SoLogically…”

In the scene above, the crew of Monty Python, riffing on the absurdity of witch “trials” of the past, comedically imbue the proceedings with “logic” and “reason.” But the humor stems from just how illogical their logic is. Their not emotionally brash, feeble minded people, just looking for a biblical “scapegoat” to burn, if for nothing but perhaps to pass the time, distract from the pain of present existence, and feel something like feeling alive…

No no. They’re analyzing, assessing, and handling the situation logically. They’re giving REASON to their “NEED” …to burn a witch.
Otherwise it’d be chaos…
Anarchy!

Well it’s Christmas. And for anyone that knows me, it’s my favorite time of year. It always serves to remind me of who I am, in a good way, connecting with aspects of myself that get forgotten through the year. I always feel like singing. And I always cry when I do. All of this, inevitably paired with flare ups of some pretty extreme anxiety.
I think that’s actually the true beauty of the season. It reveals.
Today is Winter Solstice, actually, and when I was a Montessori teacher, my means of inclusivity for celebrating this season was to say that the entirety of the holiday season was ultimately a celebration of light. No matter the belief, or holiday celebrated, ultimately what was being celebrated was light. Because light is almost sacred, especially in the darkest of darks, deep in the dark of winter. Because there’s beauty in light. Because light reveals. Much in the same way a refining fire purifies. For those that celebrate Christmas specifically, they celebrate the coming of the light of the world, into the world. In John Chapter 8, Jesus calls himself “the light of the world.”
Light reveals. Like fire burns. And refining fire purifies.

Ephesians 5:13
All things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

Anything brought to the light BECOMES…light.

And I always find it fascinating the promises (or indicatives) just glossed over without any further thought. “When.” Not, “if.”
ALL THINGS become visible WHEN they are exposed by the light. Everything becomes light when it is exposed to the light. And “when” means that everything WILL be exposed to the light.
Wow, that sounds kinda like a magic spell. Some form of magic or witchcraft.

Kinda like turning water into wine at a party where everyone is already drunk.

Witchcraft

A magic spell, that doesn’t dispel darkness, nor destroy it. A magic spell that changes darkness into light.
Hey, can you imagine being a kid and having that magic at your disposal?
Oy. To anyone and everyone scared of the dark, this sort of magic has got to be some good news.

When I was younger, I was confused about a specific verse in the song, “G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

In Bethlehem, in Israel
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
*The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

See, I didn’t understand the English structure or meaning, so when I heard it, I heard it with the assumption they were calling Baby Jesus a witch. THE Witch.
In Bethlehem, in Israel
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The WITCH, His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Baby Jesus was a witch! A child of prophecy! Bringing tidings of comfort and joy…
And to my credit, the story isn’t THAT far off from what is often part of some story like that.

Good news of great joy. Tidings of comfort and joy “that will be for all people. (Greek: pas)” (Luke 2:10)
So was it good news of great joy? For all people? For literally EVERYONE?
And…is it?
IS Christmas “good news of great joy” for–and no exaggeration here–literally everyone?

What about Herod?

How’d Herod view Christmas and what it symbolizes? What about those like Herod? I mean, you shepherds, tending their flocks by night, what we would basically call backwoods poorfolk. More than just peasants. Hillbillies maybe. The lowest of the low. Bottom tier, on the social hierarchy. They get the proclamation from the heavenly host. Like a crazy LSD trip. And they go. Maybe because like the peasants in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it reveals something more than the pain of present existence. And, given their life, anything more is a good thing. But what about those at the top? The kings. The businessman. The Herods.

Well according to the story, we KNOW how Herod responded.

Herod went on a witch hunt.

But…why?

Was it for the baby’s magic? The same reason Queen Bavmorda hunted down Elora Danan in Willow?

Fuck Yeah Willow — “Turned against me…”“This child will have no power over me.”

Same story we’ve heard over and over. Good news to EVERYONE! Except…the one (or many) who will be overthrown.

By a baby.
A weak easily killable thing.

Later in Willow, the main character tells his family, “Under no condition, whatsoever, is anyone in this family to fall in love with that baby!

Isn’t that witchcraft?
LOVE??
At least according to ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, it is.

Those fingers in my hair
That sly come-hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
It’s witchcraft

Faith Hill sung a song about how a baby changes everything, and last year at this time, I talked about how that IS, indeed the case, and just what a baby causes you to face.

Both my kids fiddle with my hair. And there is just this look they both can give that beckons me over.
Like two little witches.

And their witchcraft DOES indeed, serve to strip my conscience bare.

Maybe there are just those that don’t like the idea of that. Maybe Herod just wasn’t ready to have his conscience stripped bare.

Or maybe it’s all about the loss of control. Specifically power. Herod was top tier.
And that good news of great joy for ALL PEOPLE, was bad news for non-peoples.
For those parts that don’t WANT to be all people. They want to be above all people. In some way or another.

What comes to mind when you hear the word, “anarchy”?

Lawlessness? The protests throughout this year? ACAB? Defund the Police?
The end of the suburbs?
An end to law and order? To civility? To decency?

anarcybgdc

Makes sense. Except lawlessness is barbarism. And anarchy isn’t barbarism.

Anarchy comes from the Greek for having no ruler, but really has more to do with being in opposition to archos—not merely a ruler, but someone above another. Basically, any “archy” is a hierarchy. And the preface “an” denotes being “anti” archy. Maybe not always AGAINST hierarchies of any kind, but perhaps simply being the OPPOSITE. Like an atheist doesn’t always denote being AGAINST theism, but just being the opposite of a theist, being NOT a theist.

Or like a king who chooses not to come in power, but the opposite of power. In weakness. Vulnerability. The lowest of the low. And invites US to care for the king like you would a helpless baby.
Witchcraft

You see, anarchy believes there is no justification to rule. That all rule comes out of force, not consent. And when you enter a RELATIONSHIP, well true love comes from consent, NOT force.
A baby doesn’t FORCE me to care for it. I give up myself to do so.
Like a spell or something cast over me.
Like some sort of…

WITCHCRAFT

Chesterton spoke heavily of the metaphor of Christmas in his book, “The Everlasting Man.
And in it, he refers to “The G-d in the Cave.”
He talks of how in that region, in those days, farmers and shepherds would more often take advantage of the caves in the surrounding region to shelter their livestock, than they were to build entirely new structures just for animals.
So Christmas is the story of the G-d most high, being born underground. Almost as if G-d was being smuggled in.
And in doing so, flipped the world upside-down. The G-d above all, was now below all.
The top, was now bottom. The first last, and the last first.

When I was younger, I used to believe in Christmas as G-d’s means of bringing order to a disordered world. A world CRAVING for order, and striving to create it anywhere it can.
(In fact, one of the only times the Bible mentions a vote is during the Easter story, when Pontius Pilate told the people to vote for which prisoner he was to free. And the people chose Barabbas. Barabbas literally means son of the Rabbi. Who interpreted the LAW. When faced with a choice between two Jesuses, between two SONS, the people chose “Law and Order.)

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it’s the exact opposite. Christmas isn’t about bringing order to our disorder. But about bringing disorder to our order.

“…heaven above the earth, and hell under the earth. But in the riddle of Bethlehem, it was heaven that was under the earth.
There is in that alone the touch of a revolution, as of the world turned upside-down.
(Everlasting Man, pg. 173)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

In Jesus, the “Light of the world,” there are no separations. There are no “dividing walls of hostility.” Because everything becomes light when brought to the light.
I wonder what else there is neither of in Jesus.
Maybe something like “there’s neither secular nor religious, there is neither rich nor poor, there is neither radical left nor radical right, communist nor capitalist, gay nor straight, cis nor trans.”
Powerful nor weak.
Those above and those below.

Basically, it sounds like what Galatians 3:28 is getting at, is that “there are no means of establishing “archy” of any kind in Jesus. There are NO HIERARCHIES in light, because it’s all light and it’s all ONE.”

ANARCHY…

Christmas isn’t about order. Its about disorder.
To OUR ORDER.

It’s like taking something and blaspheming it.
Like a punk rock edition of silent night.
Or a band called “Bad Religion” singing O Come O Come Emmanuel.

Christmas is ANARCHY.

To our “archy.” Our hierarchies. Our rulers. Our rulings.
Our RULES.

Because LOVE is the ultimate anarchy.

Anarchy Is For Lovers

No force. Consent.

And that’s good news of great joy to all.

Just not to power. And not to you if you believe YOU ARE YOUR POWER.
What would you say gives you power? Your masculinity? Your femininity?
Your money? Your position? Who you vote for?
That you’re an American?
Your smarts? Your skills?

What if Christmas actually poses a threat to those things?
What if you started seeing Christmas as something that scared you?
Witchcraft! Anarchy!
Disorder! Chaos!
An upside-down world!

A baby, the light of the world, G-d, the G-d above, willingly taking a place BENEATH you? Below you?
Where YOU are above G-d? The King of Kings, weak. In need of your care. Of your love.
All that you believed and the order you formed your life around, suddenly flipped upside-down and sent into disarray.
Like riots. Or a virus. Or an election.

Like Witchcraft.
Like Anarchy.

How much like Herod are you? How much like Queen Bavmorda?
Does Christmas insult you?
Does Christmas threaten you?

This child will have no power over me.

Does Christmas SCARE you?
Does it scare you enough…

If heaven and hell switch places, those closest to heaven end up becoming those closest to hell.
I would imagine they’d like to make sure they maintain their position.
Their proximity to heaven.
But not at the expense of themselves.

Which is often what love calls for.

Love calls to us, at the expense of ourselves. And it calls us to surrender control. Surrender our lives.

Maybe that’s why we hate magic.
We’ve “got no defense for it
the heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do?

I wonder if the real meaning of Christmas is an insult to our common sense. Our reason. Our logic.
And because of that, its as much witchcraft as that witch in Monty Python was, simply because of logic. And weighing the same as a duck.

Maybe the fire the burns in you around this time of year is a spell. Meant to burn away all that is not. Refine. However long and however many Christmases it may take.

When you arouse the need in me
My heart says “Yes, indeed” in me
“Proceed with what you’re leadin’ me to”

Nevertheless, not my will, but YOURS be done.
Proceed with what you’re leadin’ me to.

Become light. Let go of your order. Become love. Let go of your rule.
Embrace the Anarchy and the Witchcraft of Christmas…

What I think I’m saying is, surrender.
And in Jesus’ name, see what a little Anarchy and Witchcraft does to you, and for your spirit, this holiday season.
->and the world WILL be better for this…

Thanks to all my patrons, parishioners, and anonymous supporters for their encouragement and support in writing and publishing this piece:
Abel
Astrid
Caleb
David
Gabe
Jess
Jen
Kelly
Manis
Mathunna
Max
Trini

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrating, Celebrations, Christmas, God stuff, Holiday

Baby Jesus, and Secret Hidden Messages Just For You

(in which I present my Christmas thoughts this year by discussing not so secret messages, which version of Jesus you prefer, The Mandalorian (Baby Yoda), The Book Thief, Death, Birth, and All Things New.)

I just finished reading “The Book Thief.” I was given the book by someone who told me that the narrator reminded them of me. It didn’t take too long into it that I realized the narrator is Death.
That’s its own thing, but given how much my head’s been swirling lately, and just how many thoughts go circling around up there, I can see the similarities.
But it’s the last line that really clinched it for me, a last note from the narrator.

I am haunted by humans.”

It’s true. Well…it’s true that that’s how the book ends. But not just that.
It’s true of me too. I am haunted by humans. One of the greatest gifts I can say I’ve gotten was stories of old, of people I never met nor knew. Letters written. Windows into just a PART of someone’s life.

But isn’t that what a story is anyway? Just a window? A person is so much more. And to know the person is SO much more than just knowing the story.

Every story ever told really happened.
Stories…are where memories go when they’re forgotten.”

I can’t speak to why memories get forgotten, but I can say with a certain conviction that stories impact us all differently, and the emotions they elicit in each of us individually can be just as varied as their impact.
But stories have themes. They may even have recurring messages. Some are poetically weaved throughout—subtle. And others are overtly stated right at the beginning.
In The Book Thief, the last line is the narrator stating, “I am haunted by humans.” But one of the first lines is this: “HERE’S A SMALL FACT You are going to die.”

Seems a bit overt, probably probing, begging you to ask yourself the question, “Am I okay with this? Am I okay with dying?” Maybe even makes you get a bit more philosophical in your self reflection and introspection, “What’s it mean to die? What’s it mean to be alive? What’s it mean to die while still living?”
But the more I read on, the more I realized that the Book Thief is less about the character of Liesel Meminger, and more a character study of Death itself; AND as a result, a means of which causes you, the reader, to engage with the character of Death, and perhaps more subtly, your relationship to that character—to Death.

How do you relate to Death?

 

Well. Going back to Christmas. We’ve got a story of Birth, not Death (though, maybe as you’ll see soon, perhaps the story of Christmas is as much as story of Death as it is of Birth).
Put simply, I think the story of Christmas, of Bethlehem, and of the birth of a baby—the revelation that the most important thing in the universe is an infant—also serves to reveal more about you, the reader, and how you engage with each character.
It’s almost inescapable.
Unavoidable.
And ohhhh how we try so hard to do so. Let’s make it about making sure we say the right thing around the holiday, or do the right thing, or buy the right thing. Let’s keep busy. Let’s not think too hard. Let’s do just enough acknowledgment that we feel we’ve serviced the “heart” of the holiday, but not in a way where it changes us, or causes us anxiety about ourselves. Let’s not think too hard about it so as to ask the questions that REALLY SHOULD be asked, the ones that may just bring about the end of us.
It is, after all, simply the birth of the “Savior,” and we KNOW what name to write on the birthday cake.

And it’s the end of the story—the death and resurrection—that we’re left with.

But what does the beginning tell us? What does it reveal about ourselves?
Which version of Jesus do YOU pray to?

I started this post with a clip from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s probably my favorite scene from that film because it presents such a real and honest display of everything I’ve been saying up to this point.
What version of Jesus you prefer and like the best says more about you than it does about Jesus.

And what’s wrong with liking the baby version the best?
Because it’s weak? Because it’s not the savior? Because it requires care and a more delicate hand on your part?

See, the grown up, bearded man version of Jesus is the one we go to. That’s the one that “carries us” when we’re struggling (why there’s only one set of footprints). The grown up version is the one that takes care of US, dies for US, saves US.
But the baby version…well…the baby version requires YOU to care for IT. The baby version requires YOU to take care of IT.

It’s the baby version that requires YOU to die for IT.

The baby version requires more on your part. More questions. More self reflection. More introspection. More anxiety. Maybe even the end of you. It requires honesty. Vulnerability.
It requires being an adult. Being a parent. Care. Tenderness. Protection. Realness. Stress.
Humanity.
You feeling weak, frustrated, open to hurt.
It requires you being human.
Sooo…

How do YOU relate to BABY Jesus?

See, I don’t think that’s a question we want to ask ourselves. So we project. We know the end of the story, after all. And the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus becomes more about what the end of the story means.

I am haunted by humans.”

Recently—much like most redblooded Americans—I began watching Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.” It didn’t take long to reveal the big shocker of the series: a baby Yoda.

Image result for baby yoda
Friggin adorable. You should see him eat a frog. Or play with spaceship controls. Or disobey.

Whoa! Spoilers!” You say. To which I respond with, “Welcome to the internet.”

But the series turns heel at that moment. And what you THOUGHT was a story about one character and his history, becomes about how he relates to an infant.
See he doesn’t know baby Yoda, or what a Yoda species means, it’s power, rarity, bigger narrative implications. He just sees an infant. An adorable one.
And come episode three, the titular Mandalorian abandons everything to take care of the infant.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens at the story’s end, because we the audience don’t know what this baby is, or how important it is, or what will happen to it in the overall narrative.
Like we do with the infant born in a middle eastern cave, and laid in a food troth.
We know the end there. “It is finished.” (Though I don’t think all of us understand the end…)

What if all we had was the beginning (of the story)?

Over the course of my teaching career, I’ve had countless times where students have approached me to say they’re convinced I said something in class just for them. Like I was speaking for their benefit, and speaking directly and only to them. Like I was coding secret messages in a general message JUST to reach out to them.
Funny thing about truth is that sometimes it pierces in such a personal way that it feels as if it’s talking to JUST US. And I won’t lie, sometimes I DID code secret messages in a general message JUST to reach out to specific individuals.

But sometimes a story can feel so personal simply because we think we know the ending. Or maybe that the storyteller does. We think we have it all figured out, the story. It’s like that with people too. We think we know the ending. Or that the other person does.
When in reality, it’s just the beginning. And what that means to us is that we don’t know the ending.
We only know that the story has truly just begun.
And that lack of knowing what happens next, well…if we think we have it figured out, what do we need the story for? What do we need another person for?

Personally, this year has brought about a lot of change. Like…a LOT.
This year has brought about the end of me in so many ways, it’s impossible to fully get into without long, drawn out conversations that stretch far into the night.
And anyone that knows me well enough knows how difficult and challenging this season has always been to me. Not just Christmas, but my birthday as well (which happens to be coming up soon, and falls prior to Christmas). This whole season, just difficult no matter WHAT else is going on in my life.
And I can always tell the struggle has begun because—without FAIL—my lower back begins to hurt to the point of debilitation. This year it hit two days ago. And each year I think, “Gah. What did I do? How’d I pull my back THIS bad??” And then I realize this happens EVERY YEAR.

But something clicked this year that has changed what I view this season to be. No, not that it cured my lower back pain.
The theme. What’s at the heart of the story of this season? The birth? Baby Jesus? All the questions and self reflection and introspection that relating to Baby Jesus brings?

Do not be afraid.” Zacharias. Joseph. Mary. The shephards. “Do not be afraid.”
This is one of the first lines of the narrative in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that provide us the Nativity Story, the birth of Jesus.
Do not be afraid.”
THIS is the theme of the story. Each of these characters may have been told the importance of Jesus, what Jesus will be, all of it. But what they were facing in the here and now was this: an infant. A baby.
“A baby changes everything…”

How much responsibility. Care.
The END of you. A NEW relationship.

And it’s scary. It’s frightening. There’s SO many what-ifs. And it will more than likely be the end of you. But all of this is GOOD NEWS. The END of FEAR. Which is good news in itself.

You have everything to fear, and yet you’re told, “It’s okay. You have nothing to fear.”

This is how the story starts. Overtly.
And if anything is subtly weaved throughout the rest of the story, it’s this message.

So I may not know the future. I don’t, actually. Just like I don’t know what’s gonna happen in The Mandalorian, or if having a baby Yoda is somehow going to play into The Rise of Skywalker.
I don’t know it. And not knowing the story can be very scary. And present the end of me.

But I’m not afraid.

And no, this isn’t me making a subtle secret message. (But then again, I’m not that good of a storyteller.) I’m not being poetic, I’m not being mysterious or obscure.
I’m saying this directly and overtly.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
I bring you good news. And it’s this: You don’t have to be afraid.

This will change everything, sure. It’ll be the end of you, sure. But you don’t have to fear it.
You don’t have to fear anything that causes you fear.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
For this is only the beginning. And it’s not just a season. It’s a new life.
THIS is the new year. And none of us have anything to fear.

It’s true. WHEREVER you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

And Christmas means YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR.
So…WHEREVER you find love…DON’T BE AFRAID.
THAT’S good news.

There is no fear in love…perfect love casts out fear.” – 1st John 4:18

And I believe THAT is worth giving thanks.

So.
Let’s all give thanks to tiny, 8lbs 6oz, newborn infant Jesus, who doesn’t even know his shapes and colors.

 

(UP NEXT: What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me…)

->and the world WILL be better for this…

2 Comments

Filed under Celebrating, Celebrations, Christmas, God stuff, Holiday