Some Holiday parties will lack holiness. Other Holiday parties will be selfish and wasteful.
In reaction, we will get the usual Christian worries about lack of holiness, selfishness, and waste, but those are the problems, not partying.
We are a religion that predicts that history will end in a party and we are commanded by Scripture to practice. We must need better parties, more parties, not no parties. In fact, each Sabbath should be practice for the bigger parties of the year.
When Sabbath keeping was reduced to “solemnity” in the modern English sense, it made awe merely awful.
The Sabbath, like any Holy Day, was made for men and women, not men and women for the Sabbath. The busy were commanded to rest and employers restrained: Scrooge could not make Cratchit work on a Holy Day, Being able to tell one’s boss, at least in a Christian commonwealth, that one must rest was liberating. Christian feast days should be joyful, since the Lord Jesus commands a cheerful continuance even on fast days!
As I look forward to these particular Holidays: Thanksgiving (a break from the Advent fast) and the Twelve Days that start at Christmas, my goal is to love God and love my neighbor by practicing at joy. I will take time off from normal work to rest: careful not to let the spiritual workaholics fret. It is true that many Americans do not serve their neighbor, their church, or their nation enough, but Christmas Day is the wrong day to begin.
Christmas Day is a feast day and so even the glutton should not fast on that day.
Of course, gluttony is never good, just as drunken behavior is always wrong, but a Holiday is a day for abundance. What is sufficient on a fast day is less than sufficiency on a normal day, but much less than what God rejoices in our enjoying on a feast day.
If we can, we should eat and drink well with our friends and family. If we can, we should invite a few others to share in our feast.
Gift giving? Who does not like to give a gift? Nobody should ever be so selfish as to refuse to accept a gift and so deprive the giver of the joy of giving. Christians should give gifts thoughtfully as the Wise Men did. Their gifts were beautiful, but also useful when the family needed to flee to Egypt. Looking beyond the practical, the gifts had a mystic meaning for the life of the King. My goal this year is to give gifts that will be beautiful, useful, and tied to the personal history of the beloved recipient.
If such a gift is as expensive as gold, and I can afford it, then I will give it. If such a gift is inexpensive as a card with a poem, then I will give that gift.
I will not decorate to put Jesus in the Holy Day, but I will decorate with Jesus in me. Jesus Christ should so pervade our lives as a family that as we create beauty together, He is there. We will glorify Him in all we do from the evergreen to the Dickens’ Village. We know that all beauty is His! As we unpack the creche, we will remember that it is no better image of his glory than the tree. There is no secular carol and no sacred song. All songs, if good, true, and beautiful, are sacred.
We will sing and not just listen to singing.
We will read aloud stories of the Holidays: of Pilgrims and Virginians on Thanksgiving, of Scrooge and and Oz on Christmas. We will glory in fiction and fact: pretend at Santa, but honor Saint Nicholas. We will make every crooked tradition, some of pagan origin, straight . . . making their meat sacrificed to their idols feat for the feast of the Christ!
We will not party less out of fear of sin, but by grace party better, harder, and more wholesomely in the amazing grace of Jesus. We will look to the glorious, splendiferous Wedding Supper of the Lamb and imitate it during each Holy Day. In God’s Kingdom, there is no broken thing that is not being healed, no cast off thing that cannot be made glorious . . . all can be transformed by the Word become Flesh if the flesh will merely allow grace and truth to glorify.
The Holy Days are not here yet. There is still time. There is still time to give up pathetic shadows of parties, for the real feast. There is time to prepare our hearts. We can anticipate through fasting before the feast.
The Advent Fast, and we will fast and give to the poor during Advent, will prepare us and so when it is time to party we will say with joyous hearts:
Christ is born! Glorify Him!