Joy to the End of the World

I opened my Twitter account on Monday to discover a popular sentiment, the spirit of which you may well recognize. It read, “Merry season of holidays to you and those with whom you identify and celebrate with in the way in which you’ve grown accustomed to based on your upbringing and personal convictions whether they be religiously based or secular.” While I could not have written a tweet like that without it being taken as a mean-spirited parody, I believe the author would stand by the message. This is a woman who is honestly searching, grasping, for language that can acknowledge something wonderful humans share (the seasonal celebratory impulse) while maintaining her commitment to a diversity of meanings (Postmodernism). She’s saying, “What’s fundamentally important to me is that I want everyone to feel like what they are doing is special and good.” 

Hers is the tweet version of basically every child’s holiday special out this season (trust me, I’ve seen them all). Each lighthearted cartoon short is carefully crafted to teach kids living in an impossibly pluralistic world that “even though your family or tribe is basically alone in how you celebrate, what you’re doing is fine and what everyone else is doing is fine, and the thing that can join all the different peoples together is to say that everything is fine and focus on what we have in common.” Compare that to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special of 50 years ago, which assumed that everyone knew the true single meaning of Christmas but had just backslidden into consumerism. This is something altogether different: a new age has dawned.

I believe the above “good vibes” tweet is authentically heartfelt and not at all ironically meant, and I can affirm the author’s abstract feelings of goodwill while also saying that what is fundamentally important to her is not at all what is important to me. I feel more pity for her than camaraderie with her. I think the object of her faith (humanity) is powerless to do what she desperately wants it to do. So sadly, the unity she desires with humankind is out of her reach because her fundamental value is not shared with everyone, and she will undoubtedly reserve her goodwill exclusively for the people who can affirm her own fundamental conviction as fundamental. Which will also make her tweet pretty empty when she realizes she doesn’t actually mean it!

It’s hard to muster, “live and let live” when we know, along with Paul McCartney, that it actually means, “live and let die.” For the Christian, the most fundamental significant thing about us is that we cannot accept that. Jesus Christ did not “live and let live,” nor did he “live and let die.” He died to let live. The Almighty God of the universe made himself nothing, lowered himself to be the only significant common denominator, to gather the nations, humans from every tribe and tongue, to a common table for a united, eternal, Holy Day. He alone can provide a bond for humanity that is radically inclusive and yet infinitely meaningful. Only He can make the biggest possible family out of the impossible pluralities of humankind. And that’s the core of my merry season of holidays which I and those with whom I identify and celebrate in the way we’ve grown accustomed to based on our upbringing and personal convictions, religiously based, secular, and granted by grace through faith in Christ alone.

– Josh