I appreciate Chris for inviting me here, or doing his reactivation work. I have been a less active member of the bloggernacle for a couple years, after an initially enthusiastic start. I also appreciate the Thoreau reference, now if only I could grow one of those cool chin beards.
Anyway, I thought I’d start off with something light and festive.
I have noticed a direct correlation between the strength of my testimony and how much I feel that nebulous thing called “the Christmas Spirit.” There was a time when I descended quite low into humbugism. I pointed out the pagan origins of December 25, sneered at the commercialism, and smugly embraced a just-another-day attitude. Not coincidentally, this was also a spiritually low point in my life. Having children has played a significant role in returning me to the fold of Christmas. (Brining the tree in the other day was nearly a Pentecostal experience for my kids.) However, the greater factor has been that my testimony of the gospel has waxed in recent years. Nothing adds to the enjoyment of Christmas like, well, actually having faith Christ, and even more, embracing the magical worldview of Mormonism.
Some years ago as a guest blogger at Times and Seasons, Damon Linker argued that Mormonism restores “enchantment” to Christianity. Linker states:
“Mormons believe, for example, that every human being who has ever lived is the literal spirit child of an embodied God who actually resides on a planet in the visible universe — and that after we die we will literally be reunited with Him. If that’s not an enchanted world, I don’t know what is.”
Now to speak of magic and enchantment is not to deny an ultimately naturalistic universe governed by physical laws, but it does posit a universe that, however “natural,” is more radically alive and responsive and intelligent than we currently comprehend. Mormonism places things like angels and golden plates and seer stones smack dab in the middle of modernity. Angels pushed handcarts in the age of the railroad and now warn people of imminent danger in the age of the I-Phone.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Maybe not much, but once you believe in a universe of angels and gods worlds without end, a universe where animals and trees and the very earth possess some kind of spirit, the image of angels and shepherds and starry nights take on—if the term isn’t paradoxical—a magical reality. Once we accept the angel at Cumorah, there is nothing problematic about angelic beings stepping it up during the Christmas season, declaring glad tidings and whispering promptings of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, now, in 2009.
In his second post on Mormon enchantment, Linker wonders, given this magical worldview, how we would respond to the challenge “that has always been leveled against biblical religion — namely that it’s just wishful thinking, fairytales, Santa Clause writ large, Disneyland Christianity, etc.” There may be many and varied responses to this challenge, but among them I hope not to find too much back peddling or touting the rationalistic credentials of Mormonism. Santa Claus and fairytales resonate with people because they point to something true about God and the universe. Disenchantment turns the magical into something called reality. I prefer the approach of the restored gospel, which makes reality magical.