On Monday, I sat through the worst Christmas sermon I’ve ever heard.
As of late, I’ve been attending a local church service at 8:30am every Sunday. I enjoy singing in groups. The old building has a peaceful vibe. But the sermons are the standard “we are saved Christians who belong to X denomination” yawners. They say little about how to live a better life — a mediocre one until you die will suffice to gain you eternity in paradise.
But this particular Christmas morning sermon sank even lower.
The minister told a story about how last Christmas he and his staff decided that “they were so done” with Christmas dinner. Instead of making even a simple meal, they sat around drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers, describing it as “the best Christmas ever.”
He also suggested that all the gift wrapping, tree decorating and other frivolous festivities were anti-peaceful. The general message was to just do little or nothing and that such inactivity was somehow more spiritual.
Sounds more like deadly sin #6: Sloth.
Is this the result of two years of Christmas lockdowns? We were told that being festive made us selfish grandma-killers. Even today, just living, we are told, is harmful to the environment.
The minister also went on to tell a story about how in his late teens he really wanted to be an engineer. Before entering university he decided to volunteer in a mission in some remote, downtrodden part of the world. While there, he said he fell into a six-month depression wherein he felt like God was calling him to be a priest instead of an engineer.
Now, whether God cared at all about which vocation he took up, I don’t know; but I can’t help but wonder if his desire to be an engineer may have been even more divine than whatever guilt trip he may have picked up on his mission.
Please note: This is not an attack on religious vocations. I would say the same thing if he had wanted to be a priest but his parents pressured him into being an engineer.
The predicament reminds me of Peter Keating’s in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. At one point he realizes:
“…why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want… Not as I want to sleep with some woman or get drunk or get my name in the papers. Those things — they’re not even desires — they’re things people do to escape from desires — because it’s such a big responsibility, really to want something.”
A nasty trend in Western civilization has been to downplay our wants. The current generation says they don’t want marriage, children, a career, business or family, a religion or even a physically fit body. They’d rather “chill.” A job that pays enough for a basement apartment and a Wi-Fi connection is all their simple lives need (as if the technology behind wireless high-speed internet is anything remotely close to simple).
Instead, I wonder if people are suffering from a lack of self-confidence that leaves them afraid to take on the responsibilities of a meaningful life: Afraid to engineer bridges that people will drive over; afraid to have a helpless baby completely dependent on them; afraid to marry someone who will expect them to live up to their commitments.
Instead, we’re becoming a “own nothing, want nothing, do nothing and be happy about it” sort of society.
Christmas used to be about countering the darkest days of the year with creative expression and fellowship. Now many people can’t be bothered to decorate a tree under the guise of saving the environment; they don’t give gifts because they don’t want to support capitalism; they load up a playlist instead of singing carols; they skip any semblance of religious practice but binge-watch on Netflix, and they eat processed food instead of making a special Christmas meal.