Dec 21, 2018

In Good Faith: A Flintstone's Christmas

In a bonus second December In Good Faith column, I write about the emptiness of celebrating Christmas devoid of faith.

A Flintstone’s Christmas

Did you know, there’s a Christmas episode of the Flintstones? It originally aired on
December 25, 1964, as part of the original cartoon series. In it, Fred gets a part-time job at Macyrock’s department store to help finance the family’s Christmas. Mr. Macyrock initially fires Fred for being his usual doofus self, but reconsiders when he learns that the store’s regular Santa Claus has the flu. Fred proves a natural at entertaining the children and by the end of his stint, Mr. Macyrock proclaims Fred as the best Santa they’ve ever had. 

Oh, but that’s not the end of the story. On Christmas Eve, two of Santa’s elves, named Blinky and Twinky, appear to Fred as Macyrock’s is closing for the night. They explain to Fred that the real Santa Claus is sick and they ask him to help deliver presents to children around the world. As Fred steps in to save the day, we see him perched atop Santa’s sleigh shouting “Merry Christmas” in French, Italian, German, Dutch, English, and Swedish. 

This is all very nice; until you do the math. And you think, “Wait a minute. The Flintstones took place in the Stone Age. That was two-and-a-half million years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem!”

As Christmas has become increasingly secularized (hello, Christmas-Industrial Complex), it’s entirely possible to celebrate the holiday like the Flintstones: completely devoid of faith. You can celebrate Christmas without any sense of what it’s about or why it matters and many of the people we know and care about do just that. They put up beautifully decorated trees and reverently place candles in all the windows. They gather friends and family for Christmas dinner, pulling out all the culinary stops, and reveling in this most wonderful time of the year. This is all good and even holy in its own way but, as with the Flintstones’ Christmas, there’s something missing. 

The fullness of Christmas only truly makes sense in the context of faith. Faith transcends the external trappings of gift giving and menu setting and holiday decorating, reminding us what the fuss is all about which, for Christians, is the arrival of the Messiah. Faith adds substance to the flash of holiday lights.

For people of faith, the main difference between a Flintstones’ Christmas and a spiritual Christmas is that we’re not just expecting a date on a calendar. We are expecting a Savior. Expecting a Savior means standing in the sure and certain hope that we will one day be set free from that which enslaves us. That the sin which clings to us will be removed and we will be made whole; healed and forgiven and lifted up by God’s deep and abiding love. That’s what the true joy of Christmas is all about.

Now, I’m not suggesting you ignore the external trappings of the season and simply navel gaze until December 25th. You can drive down Main Street after dusk and be enchanted by the twinkling white lights in all the windows; you can even head a town or two over if you want to experience some more colorful, flashing displays of holiday spirit.

But none of it has any rootedness unless you also spend time reflecting on the deeper themes of the season. When you do, there’s just an extra jolt of joy that makes Jesus’ birth even brighter and more meaningful. 

I’m still not sure why Fred yelled out “Merry Christmas” rather than “Yabadabadoo” from Santa’s sleigh in that Flintstones’ Christmas episode. These are the things that keep me up at night. But in the end I’m thankful to Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Pebbles, and Bam Bam for helping highlight what truly matters this season. Even it’s by pointing us back to the divine hope enfleshed in a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger in Bethlehem. 

However and wherever you spend Christmas this year, I encourage you to join a local worshiping community. I can’t promise that your mother-in-law’s fruitcake will taste any better, but I can guarantee that your Christmas will be that much more meaningful.

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