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Christmas Mental Associations

Okay. Here is a little Mental Association game. You start with a topic and tell what unrelated thing you associate with it. Then you associate another unrelated thing to that. After the seventh association (the ‘number of perfection’), you have to somehow bring it back to the first topic.

Today’s association topic is Christmas. When I think of Christmas, I remember reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, year after year. Stories of shepherds mixed with stories of wise men and drummer boys and Christmas trees and Christmas queens and five good reasons to memorize your Christmas play lines. The nativity passages in the Bible became…

1. Out-of-context scriptures. When I became a Christan, I had trouble even reading Luke 2 without gagging. After several years (and several sermons and papers on Luke, portions of Luke, or Luke’s theology), Luke 2 has finally been integrated back into scripture for me. Now when I hear the Christmas story, I snap into redaction criticism mode, where I think, “Oh that part is from Luke (or Matthew), and here is what he was doing in his narrative through that passage.” The other main out-of-context scriptures I stumbled over as a new Christian were the passion narratives. They would always remind me of…

2. Jesus Christ Superstar. I would get to the last supper and start singing to myself, “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a happening.” Like the nativity stories, I am finally over this reaction, but I also have never seen a production of Jesus Christ Superstar since I was in high school. I have heard lots of Christians who hate it, but I didn’t recall anything seeing it then that was particularly blasphemous. I would like to see it again sometime, but I fear that I will spent the next year singing, “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a happening,” every time I read the passion narratives. That happened to me for a week after seeing just a short snippet of it in…

3. Along Came Polly. Do you remember this movie with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston a few years ago? Stiller’s best friend (whose name I don’t remember) was in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was cast in some minor role (Judas?) but he was so full of himself that he thought he ought to jump in and play the role of Jesus. Now every time I start singing, “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a happening,” all I can picture is the part in the movie where he jumps in during practice and starts singing, “Whyyyy shooould yooou want to know?” This little Asian guy timidly speaks up, saying, “But it’s me. I’m Jesus.” It was maybe one of the best presentations of arrogant pride (in the Biblical sense) I have ever seen. Ben Stiller has been in a lot of movies: “There’s Something About Mary,” “Zoolander,” and others. But my favorite Ben Stiller movie has got to be…

4. Keeping the Faith. Ben Stiller plays a young rabbi who has been friends since childhood with Ed Norton’s character, who grows up to be a Roman Catholic priest. And there’s the woman from Dharma and Greg whose name I can’t remember. My favorite scene is where Ben Stiller brings in a Black Gospel Choir to liven up their synagogue services. That scene, to me, is what church ought to be like. I got to have that kind of experience once during my…

5. Six Weeks Singing in a Black Gospel Choir. When I first became a believer, I had a friend in the UW Gospel Choir, and he invited me to join. I ended up dropping it after a few weeks, but I was in long enough to sing one concert. It was great fun, but I’ll never forget how awkward I felt as one of maybe five white people in a choir of fifty or sixty, and the only white guy. It was an amazing experience that helped me catch just a little glimpse into what it feels like to be a minority. I had no problem with the music itself, but otherwise I felt totally out of place culturally. I said I quit because I didn’t have time for it, but sometimes I wonder if it is just because I felt so uncomfortable. It was a great experience overall, and a fun part of my…

6. My College Life. Sometimes I regret dropping out of the Gospel Choir. I regret dropping out of the Marching Band after finding out I had only made Sweatered Alternate (which meant I wouldn’t get to play unless someone else couldn’t make it, but I would have to lug around everyone’s equipment). I regret not doing more stuff during college. Sometimes I think should have gone to a smaller school than a state school with 40,000 students. I was too intimidated to ever do anything important. The only thing I ever really got involved in was church. But that was a good thing, because it changed my life. It was also the place where I met…

7. My Wife. “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (Proverbs 31.10) This was the verse I spent the morning meditating on before I asked her to court me. Yes, we did the whole I Kissed Dating Goodbye method. And you know what? It actually worked. We had our very first kiss at the altar. (Talk about a Big Red moment!) I have read a lot of people online (okay, actually just Chris Tilling) that make fun of courtship, but dangit, it just works. I am more in love than ever after almost nine years, and have five children to prove it. O how a family helps you to recognize how many things you take for granted, which brings me back to…

· Christmas. It seems I have spent a lot of time overcoming Christmas burnout. But now with a family, Christmas is more fun than ever. My kids are so wired. We’re going to our church Christmas party tonight, where I’ll lead everyone in singing Christmas carols, which I like again. It’s all good.

It would be fun if some of you would pick up this theme and do your own Mental Association post on Christmas. I would like to see where it leads for other people. I would love to see this become a sort of pseudo-meme, but where you don’t have to tag people at the end. Leave me a comment with a link if you decide to play the Association Game.

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