Comedy of the Senses
Glittering scenes, sparkling lights, a musical blend of the impossibly giddy and the tearfully somber, crowd scenes, surprises, hustle and bustle, and, for many, the hope of a timely romance…
A farce? A musical comedy?
Or something more…
Add the scent of evergreen and fragrant spices, together with the flavors of seasonal fare, and we may find ourselves in the midst of a different kind of performance.
A comedy, indeed, but one that involves all of our ways of knowing the natural world.
It is a grand comedy of the senses.
It is our celebration of Christmas.
This traditional approach to Christmas is not terribly appreciated by a wide variety of sensibilities, ranging from the highly material to the highly spiritual.
Ebenezer Scrooge, yes; but also our sisters and brothers who prefer a more enlightened understanding or a more spiritual celebration.
Including, as well, my sisters and brothers who pursue a Magdalene-based spirituality that delineates the world of the flesh on one hand and the life of the spirit on the other.
To these folk, as well as to more traditional ascetics, our Christmas celebration smacks too much of party-hearty, shot-till-you-drop, and makes no provision for the spirit.
But can we so lightly dismiss the sensuous aspects of our celebration as emblems of shallowness or commercialization?
Can we so easily consign the traditional Christmas, like the farce and the musical comedy, to a dustbin that is reserved for those of simple, coarse, uneducated, unsophisticated and, perhaps, unspiritual character?
Consigned to the crass?
To the unrefined?
I do not believe that this appeal to the senses is a distraction.
I believe that this appeal to the senses is the point.
We finally got it right.
We reversed an ancient wrong.
In every age, children are born into a world where adults perceive shades of gray and brown and speak in a highly-nuanced language that is beyond the comprehension of their youngers.
So it was, two thousand years ago, in our gifts of a drab stable, an adult preoccupation with the intolerable demands of mass dislocation and all of the other accoutrements of that first Christmas.
For what? The bookkeeping of a census? Talk about crass…unrefined crass, at that.
It is said that Christmas is for children.
No drabness here, no fine nuances, just a sheer blast of sight and sound and scent and taste and feel.
We have created a celebration that could not be better designed to engage the simple delight of children.
We have created a celebration that could not be more welcoming to children.
It is apt.
And, perhaps, something more.
How else should we celebrate divine incarnation?
With a tract? With purely spiritual prayer?
Or with a dazzling demonstration of the sights, sounds, scents, tastes and feel of our world of the senses?
How else should we honor God’s choice to become incarnate?
For if we honor, or, at least, respect God‘s choice, then far be it from us to belittle those circumstances into which God chose to enter.
Personally speaking, I doubt that God would have created, visited, saved or revisited our world if it were inherently distasteful.
Our comedy of the senses celebrates the setting for the incarnation.
With all of it’s holiday sights, sounds, scents, tastes and feel.
I believe that sensuousness is the key to, not the distraction from, nor even the dilution of, the meaning of the season.
Still, I realize that some of my most earnest sisters and brothers will cavil at the thought of a blessed yet sensuous Christmas.
To them, and to others who may find a stumbling block in this message, I defer to the genius of Charles Dickens.
Can’t combine the spiritual with the sensuousness of the season?
Have you forgotten the Ghost of Christmas Present?
I wish for you an old English blessing. It is preserved in a traditional Christmas song, which some may well believe refers to “merry gentlemen”. Actually, there is a comma between the two words; in the song, the particular blessing is addressed to “gentlemen”.
My wish is for all.
God rest you merry.
I post new articles twice-monthly in "Author's Corner".
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Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over sixteen years. In his home denomination, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.