Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cynicism vs. Sentimentality

I rarely blog on a Saturday night on a weekend when I'm teaching. It's a strange time to be me. I prepare as best I can to lead up to teaching on a Saturday. Several months of planning and preparation lead to one moment and then it's over. But the stranger part is that the moment comes again twelve hours later. (Then again right after that. Then again after that.)

On Sunday, there isn't really enough time to change much or even think about how the last Celebration went. I just try to stay focused and make subtle adjustments. After Saturday night though, I have twelve hours. Normally I'll think about how things went on the way home and wake up an hour early to rework the parts that need attention. On rare occasions I don't need to do that at all...and on a few occasions I've totally changed everything. Tonight feels more or less like a normal Saturday. I generally said what I wanted, but it all felt a little disconnected. I have some ideas on how to fix that. Part of my challenge is that I don't write much down so I have to remember what I said and what needs to change.

One idea that I plan on exploring more tonight is the idea that, when it comes to Christmas, most of us our wired to be either overly cynical or overly sentimental. As for me, I have an amazing capacity for cynicism. I sort of excel at it. I'm an INTP on the Myers-Briggs. There's no doubt that if we added the a fifth category of cynicism/sentimentality that I would be an INTPC. I see everything wrong with Christmas. Trust me.

It seems to me that the polar opposite of cynicism could be sentimentality. Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian hero of mine, says that sentimentality, not atheism, is the greatest enemy of the church. He equates sentimentality with practical atheism, saying that when we no longer truly believe the gospel we substitute the reality of the Jesus event with meetings, songs and patterns that create "warm feelings" to replace honest conviction.

Living in a world without sentimentality or cynicism seems unrealistic, and frankly undesirable to me. However, allowing our cynicism or sentiment to control us seems like a plan for disaster. I committed tonight to be less cynical this Christmas and challenged the sentimental people to pull back enough to have fresh eyes to see beyond nostalgia toward the remarkable claim that a baby entered human history on a secret mission to destroy evil with the power of good.

My prayer for VCC this month is that this Christmas will be looked back on as a season of salvation. That's something we all need and no amount of cynicism or sentiment can fill that need...only Jesus can.


Michael Joseph Sharp said...

It's easy to be cynical this time of year, which is why the old tale of Scrooge still has so much tread on those tires. People can identify with the story.

My agenda for this Christmas is to see how small acts, gestures, moments, communication, etc., can change people's moods, outlooks, perspectives, ... not to sound over-sentimental. ;)

Sara said...

After reading this and then listening to the celebration today I can't vow to be less cynical, becuase I am not a cynical person. After hearing you describe what a sentimental person is, I can't vow to be less sentimental either. I do not try to hold onto Christmas of the past.

However, I have found that many year I am always searching for more meaning and more of the true meaning. I am always looking for ways to find God in this season, how to show God's love in pratical ways. I have also found that I feed into the sentimentality of family members. I will vow to feed less into bring Christmas Past into the present and serve in more practical ways.

It was a great message today. When we got home we looked up what our names meant. Our parents did good. My husand is Keith and the web states that means a warrior. My name is Sara and the web states that means princess.

Amber_Feltner said...

I dont know what I am. I know that the build up to Christmas makes me somewhat nervous and somewhat extreamly excited and then as soon as the presents are opened its gone until next year.