Rock Island, IL
Difficile est saturam non scribere.
Call invective “raillery” and rob the world of spleen; call raillery “invective” and rob the world of mirth.
—Bar Jester’s Uncle Horace
If enough people call you “Scrooge” or “Grinch,” and if they do it enough times, you can almost believe that they’re trying to flatter rather than compliment you. But then if you attend to them a little more closely than you promised yourself you would, you begin to realize that they think they’re actually insulting you. They think your disaffection with Christmas is a bad thing.
Then the pieces begin to fall into place. They keep saying they want “Christ” put back in “Christmas,” whereas you’d settle for putting the “mass” back in “Christmas.”
They want to go to their worship auditoriums and reenact the nativity, complete with hay and oxen and asses; you want to partake the holy birth.
They make a point of saying “Merry Christmas” to all the Secular Humanists who wish them “happy holidays”; you just shrug your shoulders, spike the eggnog, and deviate not a hair’s breadth from making your holy days as happy as propriety allows.
They call Jesus the “Greatest Gift of All” (who came “wrapped in ribbons of love”) and snatch for themselves a metaphysical sanction for the annual Visa-borne glut; you unwrap yet another unrequested coat, which the Greatest Gift of All commands to you to give away, and sigh in affected gratitude as your thoughts drift toward the beneficial uses of arsenic.
They think “Silent Night” is a great song; you think it’s sentimental schlock.
They want to go on and on about “the true meaning of Christmas”; you’ve been meditating it your whole life and still couldn’t say for sure what it is.
They express the mystery of the Incarnation in “Happy Birthday, Jesus”; you consider reading St. Athanasius again but think better of it and reach instead for all the pills in the medicine cabinet and a bottle of Absolut.
Yep. It’s beginning to look a lot like Krustmas. You can almost hear the earth groan. The very rocks and stones cry out as the old stuff leaves the vinyl-clad manse on Willowbrook Way for the land fill out in the west end of Forsaken County, just as in perfect synchronicity the new stuff departs China, Taiwan, and Korea for the We b Toyz and the Electronics Unwarranted Outlet on Vestigial Loam Parkway, that five-lane east-west artery that extends from the cloverleaf all the way to Jesusland.
In times like these a man could get desperate and do desperate things, such as turn to drink or poetry.
That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heav’n’s high Council-Table,
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,
He laid aside; and here with us to be,
Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,
And chose with us a darksome House of mortal Clay.
It ain’t exactly “said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,” but it might do to hold off despair one more day should the trainload of Prozac be late in arriving.
Ah, shit. The more I think about it the less I’m able to credit the notion that we’ll survive the ravages of Krustianity and its favorite Hollidae. It motors off to kontemporary worshup and hears “Peace on Earth” morph into “Homeland Security”; it reads “but thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet” and then gathers around gas pumps to petition the gates of heaven for the lowest prices always.
It notes a life that began with “no room for them in the inn” and ended with “no place to rest his head” and finds there the blueprint for a three-car garage and an entertainment center in the basement for Jaxon, Ashley, Lexie, and all their friends from the God Rocks & Jesus Duz 2 Youth Group at Valley Harvest Family Values House of Praise.
It’s doing the best it can to bring back that bible-based economy of the late ’90s and early aughts that so lavishly bankrolled our military, wherein are met the hopes and fears of all the years.
Yes. Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Ho-ho-ho and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls. I can feel my heart shrinking three sizes this very day.
Then I walk outside on the 26th and see that giant stain on the ground, and the old ticker shrivels altogether. The crime scene is too horrendous to behold. The carnage is beyond belief. It’s the second day of Krustmas, and everyone’s already done, love-spent, impotent, dazed, hungover. When you cease preparing for feast days, you lose the capacity to celebrate festal seasons. Might as well bring on Theophany right away—as if the Incarnation had been nothing more than Jesus in a party hat blowing out his candles. No wonder we eat all the football we can on New Year’s Day. We just watched Jesus age another year just like the rest of us poor sods. At 2,009 he’s got some unseemly wrinkles. He needs Osteen’s make-up guy.
Lordy but I feel like one of those malfunctioning electric guitars at Victorious Life Krustian Fellowship and Outer Suburban Outreachers Outreach Ministry that the praise team needs to pray over and drive the spirit of fear from.
(“Father we just wanna thank you for always being there for us when need you and we just give you all the praise and the glory Father for just loving us so much that you came to us on a cold winter’s night in a far way place where no snow falls to just give us the courage to go rogue and just to be here tonight Father with your family. And Father we just ask you tonight look upon this broken guitar of a man Father,this back-slidden Bar Jester, and with your mighty capo and pick just strum him back to life Father …” To hear the whole prayer, go to www.jesusisjustalrightwithme.com).
Or maybe the folks at PrayerChain.com could start an email prayer chain to help disabuse me of the notion that a debased culture deserves a debased religion, and that such a religion will debase the culture further still until the whole thing resembles some swiftly warming planet caught in an unstoppable looping effect, a planet weighed down by despair, sorely pissed about Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), and sinking sinking sinking as its sorry stewards hold hands with Cindy Lou Who down in Whoville and sing the last noel.
Or–hell, I don’t know–maybe it’s time to “come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief.” Maybe it’s time to “come into the presence of still water,” to “feel above me the day-blind stars / waiting with their light” and to rest for a while “in the grace of the world.”
Dear God, let Lent come quickly.
(Lexie needs to give up bottled water and American Idol.)