I remember talking about atheism and agnosticism in my world religions class in high school. In my little conservative corner of West Texas, we didn’t spend much time talking about the godless heathens, but I remember the description of Clockmaker god, who designed the world, perfectly calibrated all of it’s gears and dials, and then stepped back to watch it run. While intriguing, this idea of a “Let them eat cake” kind of god didn’t really appeal to me. I mean, duh. At that point, I was deep, deep into my Christian faith.
But even now, I don’t quite get it.
I read once that religion is a metaphor for how we see and interact with the world. I actually like this because, while there are parts of the Christian faith that I don’t care for, there are parts that I like. If Christianity is a metaphor for the way I understand faith and god, the Christmas story is part of the metaphor that I like.
We are spending Christmas in my hometown. I love Christmas lights. If Christmas lights had a fan club, I would be club historian. I also love candlelit Christmas Eve services, where the blaring lights of the church are put to rest for a moment and quiet sanctuaries are filled with lights and voices.
My parents’ church has had a bit of upheaval this year and so, we were going to be without a Christmas Eve service to attend but my intrepid sister suggested that we just host our own.
She asked me if I was comfortable with it, ever thoughtful about my evolving faith. Of course, I told her. I thought that nostalgia was what made it such an easy decision, but these last few days have me rethinking that.
Clockworker god has no place in Christmas. No, the Christmas story is about a god who has not abandoned their people, especially the with the least amount of power.
Tonight, we hosted a candlelight service in my parents garage. The tools and old signs and bicycle wheels are half covered by tasteful plastic green tablecloths. A rug punctuated with stains, both old and new, adorns the floor. We sang hymns and listened to a homily and the motion sensor garage door light kept going off during the candlelight part but God was there anyway.
Isn’t that the point of the Christmas story in the first place? God doesn’t need professionally printed programs or soaring buttresses or musical experts leading a choir. Very little about Jesus’s origin story reeks of money or clout or privilege.
God with Us. The regular people.
The cross? Still a bit doubtful, haven’t found a theology that I can really hang my hat on for me to keep that part of the Christian metaphor.
But Christmas? I can fuck with Christmas.
God with Us.