What began as a silly way to make a long drive feel shorter quickly became a source of exposure and sadness.
My youngest son happens to have been born on St. Patrick’s Day which is a source of great pride for him. As a joke, my other sons began looking up what holidays might fall on the rest of the birthdays of our family members. Somewhere, in the laughter and silliness of hearing about Taco Day, Cat Lover Day, and Donut Day, my heart became heavy.
Don’t get me wrong, we look forward to 7/11 when we receive free Slurpies, and I love a good donut, myself. However, the tendency toward trivialization in our society and our hearts alarms me.
One way to learn about the values of a group of people is to study their celebrations. The rituals and rites of passage of Native American populations is a window into their culture and faith system. Foreign language teachers often use holidays as windows into the values and culture of their respective people groups. When we study ancient civilizations, we attempt to piece together their worldview from what we can gather about their ceremonies and celebrations, among other things.
That being said, I began to wonder what the trivialization of holidays says about our current culture. After all, one cannot go two weeks without being told its Coffee Day or Sibling Day or Favorite Auntie Day. I am not against coffee or siblings or aunties; however, I fear that our need to find frivolity and commonality in such surface things speaks into a much deeper trend in our society at large.
When the larger narratives which are intended to inform our lives lose their central and shaping places, common lanes of celebration and significance become an intricate and complex web of one-lane roads dictated by each individual self.
Nationally, our holidays seem to have lost their intended depth, as days like Labor Day and Memorial Day become primarily chances to sleep in and grill out rather than moments to remember where we have come from and those who brought us here. Ecclesiologically, the Christian Church is far less ordered by the liturgical calendar than the commercial and pragmatic calendars of our people.
At the times of their emergence, people thought that globalization and technology would give us more information and thereby make us more complete and deep people; however, I fear that the flattening of the globe and the insane deluge of information has only made us more confused and anxious about the things of the most significance. Desperate for levity and clarity, we have been pushed further and further toward the thin, uppermost layers of commonality and triviality where we tend to spend the majority of our time: food, entertainment, and nostalgia.
It seems that it will take great work to recover depth and purpose in our lives, as the narrative stories that offer shaping significance have become as nuanced as each individual self. Thus, we cannot agree on politics, faith, or meaning in life, but we can agree on donuts, coffee, and pets. While I appreciate the desire to find common ground, I fear that our layer of common ground is alarmingly trivial and unsubstantial.
Thankfully, the gospel offers us the narrative of all narratives: the gospel story that invites any and all into depth of living, significance and celebration in Christ.
The Church must fight to remain moored and grounded in biblical celebration. We must connect our unmoored congregants to church history and the agreed upon rhythms and holidays of Christ’s people. We must train our people’s hearts, minds and homes to know the depth of the Christian life and the solid joys that come from being anchored into greater redemptive history. We must teach them how to find a deeper common ground in their shared identity as former, sinful rebels against God now adopted into the family of Christ.
Lent is a chance to do just that, whether in our homes, our small groups, or our congregations. Lent is a chance to dive more deeply and intentionally into the murky depths of the human heart, knowing that there was one who plumbed its depths, suffered on our behalf, and arose carrying our living hope.