Trick or treat!
It’s perhaps a strange thing to begin with, seeing as you’re probably reading this in December. “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” would be a more suitable greeting, as we see the lights go up on houses, trees sparkling in windows, and people bustling about buying presents and gathering together to celebrate the season.
But still, I say to you, “Trick or treat!”
For me it’s not so out of place. As I write this, people are celebrating Halloween. Costumes and spooky decorations are everywhere. It’s a phrase that is expected to be heard in abundance right now, at the end of October.
But today I choose to allow a little of Halloween to enter into your Christmas spirit. And I have good reason to do so.
As Christians we have many special days. Saint’s Days, days of fasting and days of feast, days of memory and days of joyful praise. And the sad thing is, so many of them pass with little notice, and little due reverence. Easter is a time of chocolate bunnies and colourful eggs, rather than elation for the Resurrected Christ. St. Valentine’s Day is wracked by sappy gifts shared between lovers (or a feeling of loneliness if you happen to be single) and very few take note of the imprisoned Valentine restoring sight to his jailor’s daughter. And does anyone notice November 1st as they emerge from the sugar shock of Halloween night?
And Christmas? Try as we might it becomes harder and harder to “keep Christ in Christmas.” The baby Jesus has become little more than a background figure for many who celebrate his birth. Like Queen Victoria, who’s federal holiday now has more to do with the consumption of alcohol than it does the lady herself, Christ is part of the rather more somber nativity scene amongst the glitter and opulence that his day has attracted.
Like so many “holy” days, and other special occasions, Christmas has become more about us than about whatever we are meant to be celebrating. The question is never “How do I express my joy about Christ’s birth?” and is more “How do I make this holiday feel special for me and those I care about?” And we pour ourselves into it completely, trying to answer this misguided question. And it never really works.
On December 26th we proclaim: “Well… that’s another Christmas done,” and we feel a sudden exhaustion and emptiness as we face the cold winter ahead. (Never mind that Christmas technically has only just begun.)
A mad dash… a whirlwind of decorating… an onslaught of food and parties… a flurry of gift buying, giving, and receiving… and in the end we’re just more tired, more in debt, and just a little more cynical about the year ahead. We all thought we were getting the treat, but all we got was the trick.
And so it goes, my friends, year after year. Sometimes we try to do things differently. We try to give the season more meaning. But the world shouts at us for not joining in the glitz and glamour. It seeks to cheapen or sneer at our simple joy, as we, like poor shepherds, just wish to go and see the newborn King in his humble cradle and be thankful.
I hope that this year you can make things different. I hope that you and yours find the pure and shining light in the midst of the commercial sparkle. I hope that you can stay steadfast, keeping the Lord in the centre of all your thoughts and actions, not only on Christmas Day, but throughout the season, so that his warmth is with you in the cold days ahead.
The question is asked: trick or treat?
What will you choose this Christmas?