"In the long-ago Greek plays a god would fly in on a device that swung on ropes and see that the stage was full of human beings who were in a terrible fix, with lots of confusion, murder and mayhem. The god then told all the actors to get along, turned and gave the audience the moral to the story, and ended the play. But you had to have a gut-wrenching build of drama, with everyone in a complete and utter quandary, a cliff-hanger, out of control… then that very human middle act made the god great and necessary.
Real life always has that crazy coming-apart point, too. Amen? And we have powerful institutions, traditions, "gods" - that we count on to intervene on our lostness, as we act out mysteriously. But lately, we Americans have turned our lives over to a belief system that completely bans that mystery – we actually request that God take over the stage in the first act.
In the culture of the United States we have a destructive fundamentalist faith called Consumerism. The high priests of this culture stand at the locked door to a vast area of mystery, understood only by that privileged few. These are the gods of high finance, corporations, globalization. These "Masters of the Universe" tell us Americans what we can and cannot do, and they walk right out onto the stage of our lives and start bossing us around, fully instructing us on what to do with our day, how to behave, how to dream, how to raise our kids…
We need to manage the stories of our lives so that we experience the utter confusion and directionlessness that always precedes learning. We want falling so we can find balance. We need darkness to have light. We know this in our bones. It’s that falling and that darkness, the outrageous middle act without any clear answers – that is the mystery that we must insist on. It sets the stage for the entrance of the powerful teacher, the caretaker of the mysteries, the "god."
Santa Clause is a major year-round god, straight from the mysterious north, flying through the sky, shouting Ho Ho Ho and evidently walking around in our homes at night. He hangs logos over the children's beds. He starts his Muzak before Labor Day. He sees profit centers everywhere. Santa says Christmas is his story. Obviously he is sent by Wall Street and he arrives in our play in Act One ... He shows up too soon.
We Americans are trying to reclaim our good story now, in the winter of 08 and 09, as the Wall Street gods fall from the heights, the Obama administration arrives, and Christmas is left unguarded. Recent polls show the Christmas Revolution in full swing. 67% of all Americans say that they will shop less this Christmas. At our church we're getting emails daily. Seemingly ordinary families send us startling descriptions of very home-made holiday celebrations. The middle act is making a comeback.
The giving of a gift and receiving of a gift between loved ones is the most mysterious of human acts. Something always happens beyond whatever strategies we had in mind in giving a "good gift." Let’s take a look at this. Say you give me a gift and so I accept it and hold it in my hand. I'm very curious, feeling the weight and wondering about sounds or a shape under the wrapping. As I open the gift, you and I are exchanging glances, and then the mysteries start building. Here is life's riddle, and it is a wondrous feeling made of questions, not answers. It's a compressed version of a good story.
You and I don't know for sure what our responses are… We have no script from Santa Claus. Christmas is powerless. It can’t make us conform. For a moment Christmas is actually forgotten. In the slow motion of our gift-giving -- we have a rich concoction of memories, regrets, crushes on the same person, histories, strange weather on the beach -- our minds seem to invite many vivid, conflicting things. If we really love each other and the gift is OURS - then the experience sets us in motion through a door to an unplanned-for place. Where do we end up with this gift? We don’t know and there’s a sensual pleasure for us in the unknowable. We’re keeping the god away – for now.
Let us make our Christmas Revolution. May our giving be the radical seed, the increasing light and heat of the solstice. May our giving be the promise of unpredictable Spring. May our giving be revolutionary, the recombinant moment that improves us all. May this be the real giving that makes our evolution work. May our gift economy fire the wrong gods, and give the right care-takers of our mystery their cue to enter of the stage of our lives when the play needs to come to an end. Amen."