Christmas is a weird season. It is one of the most sacred Christian holidays, but it is also slathered with Santa, reindeer, decorated trees, talking snowmen, sugarplum fairies, living nutcrackers, presents, parties, and a poisonous plant that is supposed to compel people to kiss. It is a blowout celebration and it is all kind of ridiculously over-the-top.
Sometimes there is a part of me which thinks that Christians should just strip this season down to its sacred elements. Silence the jingle bells, chill out on the presents, and send Santa packing. That side of me is a bit puritanical. But here's the thing about all of that extra stuff: when the festive madness doesn't jump the rails, it's kind of wonderful. Not the crass commercialism or the "Santa/scary elf is watching manipulation," but just the general sense of celebration feels right.
Why? If God truly did come and dwell among us, then it is worthy of a crazy celebration. The incarnation is amazing! It's worthy of tens of thousands twinkling lights and the complete upheaval of the musical landscape for a month. It's such a reality-altering that it makes sense that magic, awe, and wonder infiltrate the stories we tell. It calls for an incredible party.
Christians have this habit of poopoo-ing a party because we're worried that if it is fun then it must be a sin. But we forget that in the Gospel of John, Jesus' first miracle was to keep a party going when he turned water into wine. God loves a good celebration, especially one centered around a beautiful union; like that of a marriage or of heaven and earth touching one another.
All of which brings us to Sufjan Stevens' quirky modern holiday classic "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" It's a Christmas kaleidoscope that touches on all of the madness that makes up this time of year: Santa, elves, cookies, stores closing, the weird stuff that happens with your family, getting mittens and socks as presents, and banjos because Sufjan loves himself a banjo. Yet at the center of this joyful December whirlwind are the lyrics to "Away in the Manger." The joy and the absurdity are grounded in the nativity story. The song is the absolute best.
So put on a crazy Christmas sweater, laugh with family and friends, watch Christmas specials, go hunting for lights, dance, eat, drink, and be merry. And through it all, remember Jesus at the heart of it. God with us. It's cause for celebration.
(And for your viewing pleasure: five years ago, I put together this video Christmas card set to "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" from the staff of Seesalt, the wonderful summer student conference where I used to work)