One Meaning of Christmas: If Redemption is the Hope, Why Are We So Conservative?

Posted on December 25, 2012


RedemptionI was thinking about Christmas, yesterday. It lead to a question I can’t easily answer. Maybe you can help.

For me, the core meaning of Christmas is redemption.

From a religious perspective, it’s the ritual that marks the beginning of humanity’s redemption. On this day, light was sent into a world of darkness to save us.

It’s also there in my favorite Christmas movies, Scrooge and It’s a Wonderful Life. Lives — bad and good — are redeemed on Christmas day.

From this perspective, the orgy of consumption, which is now associated with Christmas, makes much more sense.

In the age of market salvation, we are redeemed through consumption. Through new food, new toys, and new clothes, we’re remade each year at Christmas.

Christianity, of course, has no monopoly on the notion of redemption. Redemption is at the core of most of our great myths, religions, and stories.

My question, then, is this: if we humans find redemption so compelling in story, why are we so conservative in life?

Redemption is, after all, essentially transformative and, all thing being equal, most humans seem to prefer that they, their family, their friends, and their communities stay the same.

Like Ebenezer, most people, when offered the chance of redemption, would probably prefer to return to their beds.

Here are some possible answers to the question.

  1. There is a minority of people who value redemption and transformation,they tend to control our culture, and, given the choice, most people might prefer stories that don’t focus on redemption.
  2. Most people long for redemptive transformation, are afraid of it, and, as a result, are content to live it vicariously through story.
  3. Most people feel they have already experienced redemption and like to relive the experience through story.
  4. Most people do feel they are redeemed, over and over again, through simple day-to-day acts of conflict and forgiveness and, in story, they like to see these experiences amplified and universalized.

What do you think? Which answer seems more likely to you, based on your own experience? Is there another explanation I overlooked?

P.s. For those of you who think the true meaning of Christmas is found in fellowship with friends and family, don’t worry. I’m just getting in some quality introverted time, before heading out to spend time with friends.

In fact, by the time this is posted, I will be making my Christmas rounds!

Merry Christmas!

Posted in: My Life, Philosophy