Unsolicited, unwanted or unforwarded Christmas cards and gift catalogs keep coming to my temporary abode in the president’s house at Minnesota’s St. Olaf College. I paged through some of them the other day and found that the almost universal greeting now has nothing to say about Christmas. Just “Happy Holidays!”
The question arises in some form or another almost every time I teach a course on the Bible: If God knew what a mess humanity would make of God’s creation, why did God create the world as we know it? The question has force for us, as it projects our own experience onto the cosmic screen.
There is a veritable feast of recommended books and DVDs in this issue, and I have already circled and clipped several and left them lying in conspicuous places just in case anyone is wondering what to give me for Christmas.
The greatest Christmas carol in history was not written by Irving Berlin or Nat King Cole. The greatest carol is not “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “White Christmas” or even “Silent Night.” The greatest carol was composed 2,000 years ago by a pregnant teenage girl who was visiting her cousin Elizabeth.
Whether we choose to believe it or not, we human beings are embodied creatures. There have been many times throughout the history of philosophy and religion when great thinkers have tried to minimize or deny the physicality of human existence. Simple phrases such as “mind over matter” and biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 9:27, “but I punish my body and enslave it,” have contributed to the misleading belief that we are at our best as human beings when some spiritual core that is separate from our physical nature governs our lives.