Have you noticed that they keep churning out Christmas movies that make no mention of Jesus? America’s holiday gods have a different mythology, but I don’t think they have escaped the Good News despite their best efforts. No matter the situational comedy of the film, the message always has something to do with longing and mystery. The “magic of Christmas” as portrayed in our current myth-makers’ minds has something very much to do with desire. And that desire is very Jesus-y.
Netflix, the perhaps preeminent myth-maker du jour, has a new ret-con of the origins of the Santa Clause myth. With Klaus they have done it again. The title character is motivated by his longing for the wife he lost. The joy of the children’s wishes and his fulfillment of them brings him a sense of satisfaction that keeps amplifying him into ultimate immortality, it seems, by the end of the film. This is another telling of the America holiday gods myth, which might make you squirm if you are a confessing Christian, but I think it can be redeemed.
The presence of Christ in the lingering longing I see in our culture’s iconography ( the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject) hit me last night when my cell was listening to Christmas music on YouTube while we packed holiday gift boxes for local elementary kids. The YouTube Christmas mix started playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
I said out loud, “Oh! Christmas is about longing! I get it.”
I wish that our culture hadn’t forgotten that Jesus is the fulfillment of our longing, but I don’t think folks are too far from the root when they wake up to their longing. There IS something more, and everyone feels that. Wham! has been singing the anthem of non-Christmas, Christmas longing for almost my entire life. “”Last Christmas” was released in 1984 and it is still number four on the iTunes most played holiday songs this year. I’m not sure I can redeem that one, sorry. But at least “Christmas” is in the title. How did Judy Garland and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” get in here?
Wouldn’t it be better to long for something more than a better lover this year, someone more special? Then again, who is Jesus but the best lover? And he is even bigger than your personal longing for companionship and specialness—he is the lover of the whole world and its deliverer from all things that steal love. Whoever stole George Michael’s heart, too.
Of course, the America holiday gods have another “cure” for that wistful feeling. They are experts at implanting and intensifying that longing in their quest for you to buy your happiness. It has worked to the tune of billions of dollars for billionaires and the dangerous deadening of real hope. If my satisfaction is in things, I become a thing. I become a cog in the great economic wheels that survive only by our investment in the lie that things will ever satisfy.
Instead, in Circle of Hope we are holding on to that longing. We are recognizing what it’s for; it is not the survival of the world economy—neither are we. You are not a thing, so things will not satisfy you. You are a human being and that longing is there in you because Jesus put it there. You can’t take him out of Christmas no matter how hard you try. He is here. He is God-with-us. God with us in our longing. We were made to find ourselves as who we are and whose we are in the revelation of Jesus. He is behind the “magic of Christmas.” The myths work as well as they do because we know there is more. Jesus longs for us to find him at the root of that feeling. The myth-makers didn’t make that feeling, it was there at the beginning, and Christ was there with it, and he is still with us now.