Sunday, December 06, 2009


I’ve been reading posts about Advent and wondering how to think about Christmas. I so dislike that little phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season.” If I am completely honest, I would not like Christmas nearly so much if there were not presents and trees, lights and decorations. Although I don’t like the relentless consumerism and marketing of the holidays, I really like many of the secular aspects of Christmas.

I’m not quite sure how to extract Christ from the sentimentalized narrative of events that I’m not sure even happened. Where I work, the thinking is that if the Virgin birth is not true, then Christianity falls apart. I don't know why. The story of a virgin birth really seems like something patched on later to explain how this man could be completely human and divine at the same time. But it’s a beautiful image – the soul of the world waiting for the divine to enter as one of its own, God binding himself in human flesh out of love for his creation, giving himself to his creation. Despite my prevarication, I don’t really feel hypocritical reciting the creed about Jesus being born of a virgin and that he died and rose again. I think so many things are true that aren’t literally true. Good fiction is true. Good poetry is true. And yet there may not be a single actual event in either. They transcend the literal and ascend to a world of – what? – archetypes? Platonic forms? The Christmas story is beautiful. It’s poetry, it may be fiction, it is a vision of what the world could be if we truly followed the law of love, it speaks of our greatest hope that humanity is good, because Jesus was a man and was good, because he championed the outcasts and afflicted, and we ourselves can nurture that goodness.

Dear Husband is frustrated at my lack of passion for Christ, as he puts it. He considers my sense of not fitting in to be of my own making. I do find it very difficult to engage. He loves our new pastor. I find his messages simplistic. Dear Husband thinks I'm antisocial. It's not that I don't think there are other people like me - I just don't think they're at our church. And, yes, I have my guard up based on what I hear people express. My husband fits comfortably into orthodoxy. He doesn't take issue with anything. When I hear our pastor say that doubt must be met with faith, I feel frustrated. It's like saying that hunger must be met with food, and yet the tables are bare. Dear Husband says I didn't really listen. Oh, but I did. I listened, hoping I would hear something startling. I am always hoping I will hear something that will touch me, stir me, invigorate me.

And that is why I am about to turn once again to a more formal style of worship. This next weekend I plan to visit an Episcopal church. I don't necessarily think that I feel completely comfortable there. I have so little experience with this style of worship. I've been to Episcopal/Anglican churches that were sadly out of touch. But I want to experience a little quiet veneration, a different rhythm, the Eucharist as a rite, ritual prayer. Dear Husband is beginning to think I'm a nonbeliever. In many people's opinion, I would be. Not in my own. I just feel tired.


  1. I am only concerned that you make very little effort to connect with people who are in your State, City, County, and neighborhood.
    I do believe you are justified but learn to live a sanctified life - with the body of christ.

  2. There are as many forms of faith as there are people. I find my own lack of orthodoxy was a problem but these days, not so much.
    God knows your heart; I trust that.

  3. Shameless plug -- I wrote this last Christmas and thought you might like it:

    I think there's a kind of faith that sees the poetry of Christianity beyond the literal renderings. And you might find solace in an Episcopal church, if you find the right one. I have ecclesial dreams of being Episcopal myself. Madeleine L'Engle is my patron saint.

    But the Fates have deemed otherwise, and I remain an evangelical, in heart (and by association) if not in mind.

    These are my people, and I love them, even if I don't share their metaphysical commitments (or, in most cases, their politics). I survive partially, and perhaps a bit ironically, by invoking a sense of vocation: I need to be there, for reasons that I don't seem to be completely in charge of, and it seems to me I'm there for other people. (Also because I have a deep-seated psychological need to be helpful.)

    It means that with the exception of my wife, all of my local relationships happen on other people's terms. Those who know me as "Irritable" or "Ira" (which is just what "Irritable Reaching" morphed into thanks to an online friend) are all somewhere else.

    I don't know if this is noble or neurotic. It seems to work, and I thought it might encourage you.

  4. Good to have you back with us, sinus infections are awful, both painful and so uncomfortable. Thanks for your very honest and refreshing post.

  5. Thanks, Ira - that's a brilliant post. Everyone go read it.

    Petty, thanks for your good wishes. I'm glad to be better.

    Zen, I think that I will just have to go with how God knows me, like you say.

    Jeffie, I know I know. I don't connect easily. But I often feel like I'm trying to connect with people that I can't be honest with. I can be more honest online than I can in person.

  6. I am not a very good connector either and this makes church difficult for me. There are a disproportionate amount of friendly people in a church. They make me uncomfortable. But there's no changing who you are is there? I make the attempt to find a church periodically but have yet to find one I can be comfortable in. I don't like absolutes which automatically rules out a lot of churches for me. I'll keep looking though.

  7. RT, all churches should do away with that "turn to the person next to you and say hello" crap. Ugh. I'm okay with friendly, but the 3 second meet and greet is just useless.

  8. People drain me, so I find it hard to connect. And then there's the fact I don't want to connect with people so much as I want to connect with things like nature, history, fiction and/or writing. It sounds weird and is hard to explain, but I don't care.