Advent season begins this week. It’s always a tough time for me, sorting through all the hoopla to focus on the miracle of the incarnation. I like the lights and trees, and all that jazz, but it’s a distraction really. Just to illustrate what I mean, go to Google images, and type in Christmas- how often does the nativity show up? It is there, but there is far more in terms of trees, presents, bells, reindeer, snowy scenes of Victorian villages (btw it wasn’t snowing in Bethlehem that day). In fact, by my count, Mickey Mouse shows up more often than Jesus. Isn’t the incarnation of our Lord enough of a miracle on its own to inspire our wonder? We do all sorts of good things around Christmas that miss the point. Spending time with family, being charitable, loving, celebrating etc. But do we ponder the amazingness of the Word coming in flesh? Can we have both- the “add on” traditions and the spiritual power? I have to admit that for many years I said no. I rejected the commercial aspects. Whether it was the tacky wal mart, plastic Santa, Christmas or the elegant, Victorian inspired, candles, wreathes, cloth napkin kind of Christmas, I rejected it all. The biblical narrative was all I would do. I would sing the hymns, give thanks, and reflect on the Son of God. No gifts, no lights, no tree, no cookies (ok, maybe a few), no holly, mistletoe, egg nog (ok, still avoiding that) or Santa. But I’ve mellowed from my puritanical, pietist past a bit. And now with two children at home, I want them to enjoy life, to have smiles, get spoiled, and have special moments. So now, I’m stuck with this dilemma- to use Niebuhr’s paradigm, do we view Christ against this, Christ over this, Christ of this, Christ in paradox to this, or Christ redeeming/transforming this cultural Christmas. In other words, how does the cultural aspect relate to the historical and spiritual truth?