Unclean

December 14, 2013

Quinn G. Caldwell

"I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.'  But I replied, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'  But a second time the voice answered from heaven, 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'"  - Acts 11:5-9

Ministers spend a lot of time struggling against the culture's frenetic, consumerist interpretation of Christmas.

Which is needed. But I wonder whether we go too far, like the Puritans who forbade the celebration of Christmas altogether because of its roots in paganism. I mean, if God can make unclean animals clean for Peter to eat, can't God find a way to turn a pagan holiday into a Christian one?  And mightn't God even be powerful enough to co-opt the culture's co-optation of the day of his birth?

In that Spirit, here are some Christmas things that, while they may have nothing to do with the birth of Christ, I believe God approves of anyway:

  • Elvis' Christmas Album. If it can make my whole family sing together while performing a complex operation involving a saw, a tree, a small living room, electricity, and water without killing each other, it's holy.
  • Shopping. Can get out of hand, but searching for a great gift to make someone happy can be a profound experience.
  • Christmas cards. Likewise with the out of hand, but they help people keep in touch and help the lonely feel connected.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, Christmas specials in general—especially if they're commercial-free.
  • Your favorite. Bring it on in the comments on Facebook!

Prayer

God, you can make anything holy. Bless my celebrations when they increase my love, make me generous, or open me to your world. If they do the opposite, make them go the way of last year's fruitcake. Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.
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