Christmas is the time of year when we can best understand a famous paradox by C. S. Lewis: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Christmas is one of the few times, perhaps the only time in 21st-century America, when mystery and merriment, silence and revelry are both acceptable and normal (although the mystery and silence part is becoming less normal). It’s fitting, I guess, that the holiday celebrating God’s incarnation is a time when we succeed best at breaking down our constructed barrier between the sacred and the secular.
So this Christmas season I’m going to try not to get annoyed when–for example–a church pageant makes a jarring transition from Santa Claus to the manger, or when I get in the car with my family after the quiet, reverent Christmas Eve candlelight service and the first thing I hear is Bruce Springsteen on the radio hollering about Clarence getting a new saxophone for Christmas. (editor’s note: I love Bruce Springsteen. But do you understand what I mean about jarring transitions?) Our response to the “unspeakable” (2 Cor. 9:15, KJV) truth that God became a baby–speaking of paradox–should indeed be to meditate in silence for a time, but then to turn to rejoicing. And we don’t need to feel guilty if our rejoicing involves loud singing of carols about Santa Claus.