A couple of friends and I went to the CD 102.5 Holiday Show this year at the LC in downtown Columbus.
One of the bands performing was Company of Thieves, a Chicago-based band. Their biggest single to date is “Oscar Wilde,” named after the Irish writer who critiqued Victorian society. The chorus lyrics simply go like this:
We are all our own devil
We are all our own devil
And we make this world our hell
Merry Christmas.:) I know it’s not exactly heart-warming, at least not on the surface.
The song is about living in a Victorian world of shallow high society and external comfort while trying to ignore our own problems and suffering in the world around us. It’s about pretending and denying reality.
At this time of year, when we read the familiar Christmas story, with metaphors of darkness and light, earthly kings and heavenly kings, we are reminded of the struggle between good and evil and pretending versus reality.
In the Gospels, King Herod lived in a palace, while the real King was born in a feeding trough. It is a very down to earth story, so to speak, acknowledging both the joys and the pains of real, everyday life. Even though we know this, our Christmas celebrations tend to be Victorian, overly sentimental, even downright schmaltzy.
Living in reality is about addressing the falsities in our world, seeing people and life from God’s perspective. We have a tendency to avoid dealing with reality, both globally and in our personal lives, and we pay a high price for it. From international conflict to office politics to family squabbles, we often avoid what would actually solve the problem.
For example, we often avoid the poor and those who are hurting in any way. At Christmastime, we’re reminded of the financially under-resourced, who like the real King, live in meager circumstances, and we know that our world is not as it should be.
During the Christmas season, we’re reminded of the lonely, yet our busyness distracts us from being fully present with those who would appreciate it the most. More personally, how much happier would you be if you dealt with your problems head on without trying to ignore them, even temporarily, in the hopes that they will go away? We can be our own devil.
The Christmas story is a feel-good story, but it’s not nearly as warm, fuzzy and naive as we make it. The birth narrative of Christ is a loud statement about how to live in this world, “See reality as it is, and stop pretending.”
Even though it’s challenging, for a moment this Christmas season, it would benefit us to ask, “What we are denying, how are we playing pretend, what are we covering up, what are we ignoring?” The temporary pain of the answer will be far outweighed by the joy of seeing life clearly and freedom from the problems that cause us greater pain.
The Christmas story shouts the GREAT news that we don’t have to be our own devil.