Confession: I am tempted to write an entire column inviting you to not watch television with me from now until New Years Rockin’ Eve. With the exception of favorite Christmas movies watched in the company of family and friends, which have over time become an integral part of our celebrations, TV seems so insignificant at this time of year. I don’t know about you but the holidays remind me of the importance of living rather than watching. Also, while I have certainly not seen every television representation of Christmas on offer this season, so far I’m disappointed in what I’ve seen. Christmas is so much bigger than family traditions or workplace parties or theological technicalities. Christmas is a time to consider both how the birth of Jesus changed the world forever and how our own actions impact our corner of the world every day. If you (like me) often feel best able to ponder these questions apart from the distraction of television, by all means, turn it off and enjoy the season. If that approach doesn’t resonate with you, try watching the latest episode of Fox’s crime drama Bones, titled “The Goop on the Girl.” This show at least acknowledges the possibility of a deeper meaning in the Christmas holiday.
The episode opens with a bomb-laden Santa robbing a bank only to have the bomb detonated by the radio frequency of a radical talk radio host as soon as the Santa exits the bank, with dramatic and disgusting results. This is the first clue that Bones has no intention of presenting yet another warm and fuzzy Christmas experience for viewers. During the course of this criminal investigation, the investigators, most of whom had been prepared to avoid celebrating Christmas in one way or another, are reminded of the humanity of the red-suited bomber, who tragically turns out to be a victim of others’ crimes. Learning this, the investigative team takes time out of their Christmas to be with the victim’s mother so she won’t have to bury her son alone.
The victim’s death also makes a profound impact on the radio personality whose frequency was used in the detonation. This man realizes that he shares responsibility for the death because of the anger his broadcast helped to spread. In his last words over the airwaves, he speaks to the human life’s great potential for positive impact and to the far-reaching significance of Christmas: “Now my religious beliefs tell me that Christ did not die in vain—that He died to redeem us all. I intend to show that this good, simple man also did not die in vain—that he redeemed one angry, shouting man.” These words express why Christmas is worth celebrating better than most we routinely use. The story of Christmas is the story of redemption, long awaited and finally arrived.
This season, Bones has provided a welcome alternative to the magic and schmaltz of television Christmas as usual. While I’m not against warm and fuzzy schmaltz at Christmastime (or any other time for that matter), on its own it is hollow celebration. Christmas is meant for reaching beyond ourselves and our little circles. We often speak of Christmas as Jesus’ birthday. I wonder what he wants me to do to celebrate. What does he want you to do? I can’t offer the specifics for you, but as we kneel at the manger in light of the cross, perhaps the rest will come into focus. In the meantime, inviting those who are lonely to join our celebrations seems like an excellent idea that will add substance and joy to our holidays. Enjoy them!