Advent 2020

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

One of the funniest episodes of the 1990’s NBC Comedy, “Seinfeld”, is called “The Strike”. In this episode we learn that George Costanza’s dad, Frank, invented a new holiday called, “Festivus.” The holiday was invented because Frank thought that Christmas was too commercialized and put too much pressure on the holiday. As Frank says, “It’s a Festivus for the rest of us.”

The Festivus in the television show was actually based on a real life celebration that Daniel O’Keefe invented in 1966. He wanted to celebrate the anniversary of the first date he had with his wife, so he created Festivus. His son was a writer on “Seinfeld” and was encouraged to switch things around and put it in the show.

Festivus, as seen on “Seinfeld”, is celebrated on December 23rd each year with specific rituals. There is a Festivus Dinner served and during the dinner an event known as “The Airing of Grievances” occurs. Each person at the table has an opportunity to tell everyone else and the world at large all of the ways they were disappointed by them during the year. In the episode, Frank begins by saying, “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”

A Festivus pole is displayed during the holiday. This pole is a simple aluminum pole on a stand. There are no decorations on the pole because Frank decided that tinsel was distracting. He selects aluminum because of its “very high strength-to-weight ratio”.

Festivus Miracles are also declared, which are nothing more than events that are easily explainable. And of course, the final ritual of Festivus is the “Feats of Strength”. In order for the holiday to end someone must wrestle the head of the household and pin them. The head of household selects a wrestling opponent and the match begins.

If you haven’t seen the episode, it is hilarious and would be great to watch today because it is December 23rd and that would be an excellent way to celebrate your very first Festivus. You wouldn’t be alone. There are many families and friend groups that celebrate Festivus as a joke or in some cases a real way to avoid the commercialism and pressures of the holiday season, just like Frank Costanza.

The city of Pittsburgh has an annual Festivus celebration. The Tampa Bay Times invited readers to submit their “Airing of Grievances” to their website for publication on Festivus. The former Governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle, had a Festivus Pole in the Executive Residence. Senator Rand Paul does his own “Airing of Grievances” on Twitter every year on Festivus.

It has become a cultural phenomenon and a funny addition to many Christmas celebrations.

Read – Luke 23:55-56 and 24:1-10

The very first people that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection were women. Women who were not allowed to own property. Women whose entire Earthly existence was dependent on men. Women who were supposed to be quiet and know their place. It was a fitting way for him to appear after the resurrection. When we look at the story of Jesus he is never found where a Messiah would be expected.

Jesus was born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough. Hardly the kind of place anyone expected a king to be born let alone a king to rule over Israel. The faith of the Israelites was based on the laws that had been kept for centuries and chief among them were laws related to cleanliness. So the idea that the Messiah would be born in a stable and laid in a manger was unthinkable.

Consider Mary and Joseph. They were not married and yet Mary was pregnant. Young women in 2020 are shamed for being pregnant out of wedlock, imagine what must have been said of Mary two thousand years ago. And what to make of Joseph a man who would not leave his fiancé. Either he got her pregnant or she was an adulteress and if so then why would he stay with her?

The first people on Earth who heard the good news of the birth of Jesus were shepherds. We have a romanticized idea of shepherding today, but it was not a prestigious job. There weren’t petting zoos where little kids could come and pet the sheep. The shepherds were tasked with helping keep the sheep safe. They were awake in the middle of the night as the scriptures say, “keeping watch over their flock.” It was a lowly, dirty job.

Jesus would work on the Sabbath by healing, he would dine with tax collectors, he would touch lepers. Jesus would allow a woman to wash his feet with her hair. He would tell people how important children were to him in a world where children were basically a commodity. He would talk with women who were unfaithful to their husbands, and he would tell the rich and powerful to give away all of their possessions.

He would claim that Samaritans, the hated Samaritans, were just as much worthy of love as the Rabbi at the temple. He would lavish praise on a woman who brought only two coins as an offering.  For crying out loud, Jesus’ own family tree was full of people who wouldn’t have been worthy to be in the lineage of the Messiah.

Jesus would time and time again show that his love was for everyone. For the rich, for the poor, for the Jews, for the Gentiles, for the slaves, and for the free. From the very first night of his life that love was given not to those who were the most pious or the most well connected, but to the rest of us.

I hate to break it to Frank Costanza, but we don’t need another holiday. You can try to add all the commercialization and pressure you want, but you can’t change the power of Christmas. Christmas is about love. It was always about love. Christmas stands on its own. God’s love for humanity no matter their past or their shame IS what Christmas is all about.

Frank Costanza didn’t need to create a new holiday to replace Christmas. As we have learned during this Advent season Christmas is already a

“Festivus for the rest of us.”

Sing – O Come All Ye Faithful

Pray

Almighty God, grant us in equal measure; Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope in a Savior, Peace in our world, Joy in our hearts, and Love for our fellow man. In the name of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this Advent season, Amen.

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