By Michael Carl
When I was a kid, I looked forward to Sundays.
Yes, that means I looked forward to going to church, but it also means I looked forward to going home after church and opening up the Sunday comics.
Since my parents subscribed to both of Houston, Texas’ daily newspapers, that means I had two comic sections, eight pages each, and full of complete, four-colour drawings. When we arrived home, I would dive into the color comics, reading and digesting the chuckles, the laughs and the subtle messages.
In the sixties and early seventies, comics had subtle messages based on our human nature. They were larger than life caricatures of people’s behaviour, with all its faults and foibles.
These were still golden days for the comics. There were the classics: the original Blondie, Snuffy Smith, Li’l Abner, the old Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Alley Oop, Gasoline Alley, Nancy, Prince Valiant, Mary Worth, Ferdinand, and Superman. Then there was the unrivalled genius of my all-time favourite—Peanuts.
Comics back then didn’t have too many overtly political messages and the jokes didn’t depend on savage brutality, anger, revenge, bitterness or our baser natures.
The drawings were beautiful. The Sunday comics were genuinely works of art. They were, or so we thought, permanent mainstays of Americana. The larger, readable panels were almost like Monet paintings on newsprint.
Those days are unfortunately gone. Today’s Sunday comic sections been reduced to barely four pages and in most cases, the panels have been so reduced in size that they’re barely legible.
The quality of the material has gone down too. The humour is base and crude. Sometimes the punch lines are so coarse and offensive that I hesitate to try to explain them to anyone.
Such is the case of American culture. As a whole, our culture has left excellence behind and has embraced minimalism as a way of life.
So what does all of this have to do with Christmas? I admit that the connection here is tenuous at best. Yet, we’ve allowed the media moguls and the power brokers to do with Christmas what they’ve done to the Sunday funnies. The media and the marketers have trivialized Christianity and have reduced the birth of our Saviour to a mere marketing gimmick.
Oh, we may hear Christmas music in every store, but all too often I hear “Jingle Bells”, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, “Sleigh Ride”, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas”. Admittedly a few of the traditional carols have made it back on the rotation, but only because Christians have pushed back against the tide of minimalist relativism.
Yes, times change. Financial concerns, space requirements, and a shrinking readership have forced newspapers to push the most artistic part of the paper into a corner.
Yet, sometimes change isn’t for the better, especially if a great American art form is the casualty.
Still, be of good cheer. While art may be temporary, Jesus is forever. The celebration of His birth is not a consumer commodity. The public holiday is a holy day. The real celebration of His birthday doesn’t depend on consumer demand, space requirements and ad revenues.
Jesus came into our world to give us a bigger perspective than the “Bottom Line”. He came to give us a glimpse into the eternal. He came to remedy human faults and reshape our shifting priorities. Jesus can forgive our sin and give us eternal life because He Himself is eternal.
Remember that while creativity may be divinely inspired, our public displays through the arts may be temporary.
Jesus is forever! With Him, we can live forever!
So, Merry Christmas everyone!