December Postings (scroll down)
Form, Function and Christmas
Christmas Dissonance
A Personal Tribute to Nelson Mandela
Cultivating Trust Amidst Mistrust

Form, Function and Christmas

Every year, and it seems to annually intensify to higher levels, there is the passionate public debate about “saving” Christmas;  about the political correctness or lack thereof of expressing specific  “Christmas” greetings or displays in the context of the workplace, school, government office or wherever;  about where and when “Merry Christmas” can be freely expressed, or deferment to “Happy Holidays,” “Seasons Greetings” or some other generic expression is required and deemed more appropriate; about the legality of Nativity Scenes in front of public schools or government buildings.   The debate is framed as a First Amendment issue, and proponents of the two sides line up and go at it.

What amazes me is how nasty things can get!    Just before Christmas I read about a situation where a guy went into a rage-filled, profanity-laced tirade defending the right to say “Merry Christmas” no matter what, when or where!   He even punched the person with whom he was debating the issue.    Yikes!  I call that cognitive dissonance off the charts!  It’s pretty tough to wrap one’s arms around the “Merry” part in the face of spewing anger and the threat of violence.

I listen and I hear the points being made by both sides.  However, I think there is another level at which to see the issue using the analogy of form and function.  Form and function is a phrase usually applied to an architecture principle that the form of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.  In that scenario form follows function; form is shaped by function.   It seems to me the matter of “greetings” and “displays” is largely a matter of form that gets detached from function.

For me, the essence of Christmas is more about function; about the Divine taking expression in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Even more, Christmas is about what a human life can truly be when filled with Divine love.   Even more, Christmas is about allowing Jesus to call forth from my being that which was present in his life – inclusive love, grace and compassion.   We could say that function and form uniquely came together as one in the life and love of Jesus.  Frank Lloyd Wright the great architect said, “Form follows function-that has been misunderstood.  Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”  The function and form of Christmas is love in all of its manifestations, especially its most radical in love of neighbor and enemy for which Jesus called.   That is the spiritual union of Christmas.

The deeper issue here is about function; that Christmas is most authentically “saved” when I live the life of love Jesus calls me and empowers me to live.   I can live that life anywhere, anytime, anyplace and in any circumstance even if my greeting or display is prohibited.    If our forms of Christmas lack the function of love we see expressed in Jesus of Nazareth, they are hollow and empty – as are we.


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