About the only thing I did right this holiday season was attend a performance of Annie at the Pioneer Memorial Theatre just a few days before Christmas. I’d seen Annie a few times prior, but never during the holidays, and I must say that the message of optimism, hope and, ultimately, love was the perfect holiday-doldrums elixir. My first tear fell during the overture, and I was still mopping during the required Utah standing ovation. Had it not been for Annie, I might have missed Christmas altogether, as, thanks to a seasonal blend of merchandising lasting from mid-October to present, I’d confused that white-bearded guy in the red suit for someone still partying from Halloween. Jesus? Who’s he?
Christ takes a back seat to Santa Claus on Christmas Day. If it comes to a choice between eternal salvation and a Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire with an $80 rebate will win the day. We good Utah Christians pretty much celebrate Christ only twice a year—at Christmas and Easter—plus the odd number of Sundays we migrate to our nearest house of worship for some coffee and prayers. Yet, we earnestly celebrate the 60-day shopping spree lasting from Halloween to New Year’s Day.
Shopping? Not me. I’m not an angel, though, because neither did I fast—I had turkey and ham on Thanksgiving. I had some steak at Spencer’s a few nights before Christmas, too, so in case you’re thinking I’m living the proper, Christian life, think again. It just looks that way, with my halo and all. Christmas Eve? I had a glass of wine, played some holiday music and that was that. Never even drove through Christmas Street. Woke up on Christmas Day, a Sunday, and didn’t go to church. I didn’t feel guilty during the Lakers and Bulls game until the Bulls came back at the end of the game to win. I realized I was watching a miracle of sorts, though not of the type originally intended for celebration on Christmas Day.
With all due apologies to pagans, atheists and non-Christians everywhere, instead of cracking on us good Utah Christians for revering the Christ child a few times a year, how about a little thanks for that killer sale on Call of Duty 3? That’s right, thank Jesus Christ for that new sweater, your new Victoria’s Secret fragrance and the fridge full of Christmas Day feast leftovers—none of which would grace your home if not for it being affordably priced in celebration of his virgin birth to Mary. One of those Good Books says that God works in mysterious ways, and at no time of year other than Christmas is that so obviously true—no Christ, no fruitcake.
Millions of Americans live without Christ in their lives. That’s true. It’s equally true that in a modern parallel to the loaves and fishes, just one fruitcake annually feeds millions of Americans. Look it up. The only reason that such a wonder isn’t hailed as a modern-day miracle (as opposed to a Tim Tebow touchdown pass; he should actually pray that his neck not be broken) is that bookies haven’t figured out where to mark the over/under on how many times any particular fruitcake will be passed along to an unsuspecting neighbor. It’s not God’s fault, nor Christ’s, that Americans mostly deny the fruitcake miracle. Someday, though, it will be the Loaves and Fishes and Fruitcake parable. And we’ll all be better for it. BTW—the noncandied-fruit variety that actually tastes good isn’t considered to be a miracle.
I like my miracles a bit more in my control. Like right now. I’ve just bought a six-pack of beer. I was charged what is called a beer tax for that purchase. Next, somewhere in the unclean Utah wilderness, a portion of my tax money will be spent on an archway that will be used at fairs and city events (as occurred recently in Riverton, a burgh that abuts the holy River Jordan). Or those funds could purchase a paved road, some fish for the fishing hole or a microwave oven for the police department. Each time that happens, the local yokels look up and proclaim a miracle that their little piece of hell is benefiting due to their having the good sense to elect such moral lanyards as those who have no qualm in taking from the sick and ailing and giving it to the hale and hearty—basically, Republicanism 101.
With every sip I take of a Squatters Pale Ale, I contribute to another Utah miracle, the funding for the manna that falls to earth from nowhere in the form of a seeing-eye dog here or a new firehose there in Utah communities statewide. When elected officials make something from nothing, when they turn paltry few local tax revenues into a new city asset, they are recognized for the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul miracle it is and are rewarded with eternal officetude. And better, as they also double up as spiritual advisers, it makes it easy to skip either church or civil responsibilities altogether, since one head is obviously better than two. It even makes it easy to condone the stealing we are taught to biblically avoid because bishops and priests don’t lie and cheat, do they? Of course they do, and that is a very basic reason why Christmas just ain’t what it used to be. You just can’t trust anyone anymore.
Those beer-tax dollars are intended to be spent on alcohol-awareness programs and to offset other societal costs associated with liquor abuse, not swing sets. Yeah, right. And this past Sunday was about Christ. But there was Annie, though. That means there’s at least hope. Here’s hoping.