For All the Christmas Party Poopers

For All the Christmas Party Poopers December 20, 2021

Welcome to the annual Christmas party! Help yourself to a hot buttered rum. Mind the big bowls of popcorn; we’ll be needing those later.

Now, before we begin our annual holiday festivities, there are a couple inveterate party poopers in attendance that I’m just going to have to address.

First, we have the omnipresent Smug Anti-Theist who thinks they’re getting off a good one by pointing out that a lot of Christmas traditions come from earlier pagan celebrations. I’m not talking about people who point out things like that because they think it’s a fun historical fact; I think it’s a fun historical fact too.  I’m talking about the tiresome people who honestly believe they’ve disproved Christianity because Saturnalia exists. To which I reply: Yeah duh. We’re Christians. That’s what we do. We baptize pagans.  We also take elements of all the many cultures we come from and cast new meaning on them in the light of the Gospel.  We baptize yule logs, mistletoe, candles, pine trees. We baptize the name “Brigid.” We baptize temples and make them churches. We baptize special times of year. We baptize goddess imagery and use it differently to illustrate truths about the Virgin Mary. We baptize calling God “Pantocrator.” We baptize everything.  Want me to baptize you? Christians aren’t threatened by Saturnalia.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to our fellow Christians. There is a certain type of Christian Christmas party pooper who likes to grump at people who are touched by the Holy Family’s poverty and helplessness in the infancy narrative this time of year. You know the type. People who post op eds or preach sermons about the Holy Family not REALLY being poor or not REALLY being refugees. People who assure us that Mary wasn’t anything like today’s single mothers or that Joseph wasn’t the same as an immigrant dad taking his children to safety. They want to keep Jesus, Mary and Joseph up on a pedestal lest anybody sully them by pointing out that they were humans and can teach us something about the inconvenient humans we encounter in our day to day life. And they are wrong. They are so wrong it’s ludicrous.

I’m going to go ahead and make a hard and fast rule: if someone writes an entire article or preaches a sermon assuring you that any Gospel passage, on Christmas or at any other time, is not really meant to remind you to empathize with marginalized people, you may throw popcorn at them and disregard it. They’re always wrong. Even when they have a ghost of a point, they’ve missed the broader point of the entire Gospel so they’re simply wrong. 
If they say “Joseph and Mary weren’t really refugees” throw popcorn and disregard it.

If they say “Jesus wasn’t really a foster kid” throw popcorn and disregard it.

If they say “The Holy Family wasn’t really poor” throw popcorn.

If they say “The Holy Family weren’t similar to a blended family” throw popcorn.
If they say “The Virgin Mary wasn’t comparable to a teenage single mom” throw popcorn.

If they say “The Three Kings weren’t really a sign that God wishes to manifest Himself to everyone including scary brown people who have a different religion to us” throw popcorn.

If they say “Jesus wasn’t really lynched on Good Friday” or “Jesus wasn’t really sexually abused on Good Friday” or “Jesus wasn’t really spiritually abused on Good Friday” throw popcorn.

If they repeat any version of “The Gospel doesn’t really mean that we have to take care of poor people” throw popcorn.

If they say “‘The Son of God has nowhere to lay his head’ isn’t supposed to make you think of the plight of homeless people” dump the whole bowl over their heads and make them go stand outside.

If they say “The persecution of Jesus’s people by the Romans isn’t supposed to make you think about racism,” you’re going to have to make a batch of nice sticky caramel candy corn and carefully stick it to their best clothing. And don’t take it any more seriously than that.
The whole point of the Gospel is that Jesus came to earth as a human to make His dwelling among us, to become one of us, and draw us all up into the Life of the Blessed Trinity. He specifically chose to do this as a member of an oppressed race in an occupied land, who would know poverty, who would take refuge in a foreign country, and who would eventually be abused and tortured to death by a brutally unjust racist police force. He suffered for and with us because He loves us. But this glorious gift also leaves a great demand on us. Christ told us that whatever we do to the least of His brethren, we do to Him. He is always present for us in marginalized people. Wherever you see people that society wants you to despise, you know for certain you are looking at Christ.
So there you have it.
We’re allowed to have fun at Christmas, and Christmas makes a demand on us on behalf of all marginalize people.
Now, let’s have a party.

Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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