This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for November 29, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
November ends in two days, and then the “Magic Month” begins. The month of December seems to ring everybody’s chimes, whether it’s Christians looking forward to celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, or worldly folks enchanted by the colored lights, the Frosty and Rudolph delights, or the widespread festive spirit. That’s why I call it “The Magic Month,” as the entire month of December seems to change the attitudes and activities of all people.
In a way, I suppose my opening paragraph doesn’t exactly sound like words coming from a Lutheran pastor who is more likely to encourage everyone to remember the “Reason for the Season.” It does fascinate me, however, that the “magical” part of the Advent/Christmas Season for followers of Christ is actually “Spiritual,” whereas the “magical” aspect of Christmastide for non-believers is more like “entrancing, enchanting,” and “beguiling” (in the positive sense of the word), and in a strange way, akin to “spiritual.”
Perhaps that might help explain the enormous popularity of the movie, “The Polar Express,” which was based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Adults and children alike love this movie, which is about a boy, skeptical of Santa Claus, who takes a train, the Polar Express, to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The theme of both the book and the movie is essentially this: “The wonder of life never fades for those who believe.”
While some folks think that promoting the belief in Santa Claus is rather pagan and not Christian (though St. Nicholas is a Christian Saint), the broader meaning of the movie refers to “faith” in anything. A person can have faith in his President or Prime Minister, he can have faith in the American Dream, or in his parents, or in his pastor, church, etc. And, of course, it can mean faith in Christ.
The 21st Century has been a century wherein “faith” seems to have abandoned many people, — don’t have faith in the American Dream anymore, don’t have faith in our education system anymore, our judicial system, etc. And it seems to me that prohibiting Nativity Scenes in public places and saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” encourage us to lose our faith in God as we perceive Him to be. Those are a few of the things which make “The Polar Express” so compelling.
If December is the one month in the year when people in general are more cheerful, kinder to one another, more caring, more giving, more joyful, more inclined to laugh and sing, more considerate, compassionate, and sociable, that’s an incredibly good thing.
The 21st Century is also a century wherein affluence has led us away from those good things, wherein affluence has led to us be way too blasé and to taking our God-given abundance for granted. This week I saw a cartoon posted on Facebook picturing a couple living in an upscale home. The husband is holding up a diamond necklace, and says, “Honey, I’ve brought you a present,” and she replies, “Oh, a diamond necklace, — put in on the table over there, and I’ll look at it later.”
Maybe the problem with the 21st Century is that we have become too indifferent to so many things in so many ways, and we’ve become too blasé to offer praise and thanks to God for every single thing we have, much less to think about those folks throughout the world who have little or nothing. That’s why I like the “magic” that the month of December brings to our world. If even for one month, the coldness and indifference would disappear, mean-spirited attitudes would vaporize, old animosities would heal, and people would reach out to one another, what joy that would bring! You see, God is in charge of the world that He created, and so the “magic” of December triggered by the birth of His Son will lead, I believe, to not only faith in the magic of Christmas, but also to faith in the One Who Created us.
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.]]>