Admonitions for All Occasions I: Christmas

photo of author's father wagging his finger

One of the blessings of Mennonite life is living in the knowledge that one will never be too far from an admonition.

“How empty the lives of non-Mennonites must feel,” I have often thought, when imagining what it must be like for people who do not experience rebukes on a regular basis.

Oh, I know that everyone experiences scoldings from time to time but few are the religious/cultural groups that can truly boast admonitions at all seasons and occasions.

We Mennonites are special like that.

Because there are no exceptions.

We have admonitions for the New Year, admonitions for Easter and Pentecost, admonitions for Relief Sale season, for the summer vacations, Thanksgiving and just plain everyday admonitions for the days in between.

And as Christmas is a special time of year for all Christians, we ramp up the admonitions as we work our way through Advent. Nothing goes with pfeffernusse and eggnog quite like a serving of guilt!

Of course, Christmas is also a time for thinking of those less fortunate than us and opening up our hearts in giving.

And so I am thinking today of those of my readers who are deprived of admonitions this Christmas, being far away from a Mennonite community or having just fallen away.

And so as a special gift, I am offering here some festive Yuletide admonitions to get you through the season.

I will understand if you want to skip to the cocktail recipe this time around.

The Whole Idea of Christmas

  • First of all, forget about Christmas being a happy story about a baby and angels. Mary and Joseph suffered. And you should too.

  • The shepherds lived in society’s margins. Your good job disqualifies you from Christmas.

  • The whole story is really about oppressive governments. If you aren’t doing all you can to peacefully work for justice everywhere in the world, then you don’t really have the Christmas spirit

  • But, anyway, don’t get too worked up over the nativity story; everyone knows the Sermon on the Mount is more important and we should really celebrate Sermon-on-the-Mount-mas instead of Christmas.

Entertainment and Hospitality

  • If you aren’t having guests over several times a week, you are as bad as the innkeepers who didn’t take in Mary and Joseph. Get on that.

  • You should really be organizing a Biblical Christmas pageant in your neighbourhood.

  • Why are you going to a movie? Think of all you could be doing with your time to make the world a better place. Also, you’re not really spending that much on popcorn, are you?

  • If you weren’t such a lazy good-for-nothing, you’d at least hold a Christmas caroling party.

Music

  • No, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not as much a “classic” Christmas song as Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. Stop singing those heathen songs about snow and romance and take out your hymn book.

  • The time may come when you will be required to hold your own part when singing carols in four-part harmony. Be prepared.

  • Don’t even think of mentioning that the theology of the medieval Carols we love so much isn’t all that Anabaptist. Who do you think you are, Georg Blaurock all of a sudden?

  • I hope you haven’t misplaced your score for Handel’s Messiah, or failed to keep your voice in choral readiness. We are counting on you.

Gifts

  • So, you waited until December to start that knitting project, again. Don’t you know that time management is next to godliness?

  • Oh, I think you’ll be getting a visit from the “Ghost of Christmas Presents with a Conscience” if you don’t get out of the mall and head to Ten Thousand Villages, pronto.

  • Why are you spending so much on gifts? – think of all the charities that could use that money!

  • Nice of you to give to charity but, c’mon, you can find better causes than a toy drive.

Baking

  • Why are you buying cookies, cakes or other baked goods? Think of all the charities that could use that money. And also, you know you could make them better yourself.

  • Never, ever cast aspersions on the pfeffernusse. Not aloud, under your breath, or in thought.

  • If your mother raised you properly, you would always have at least three tins of homemade cookies on hand in case freundschaft drop in unexpectedly.

  • If you don’t make the traditional cookies that your Oma used to make, you have disappointed both her and your whole culture.

I’m going to stop there, though I’m really just getting started. It’s not an exhaustive list of all possible Christmas admonitions, not even close.

But if we’re lucky, maybe some other Mennonites will read this, catch the holiday spirit and add some more admonitions in the comments.

In the meantime, how about a cocktail to ease some of the season’s inner turmoil? There’s a classic cocktail called The Adonis. I’ve just added an “m,” an “h” and a splash of cointreau to it for something that’s a bit more Mennonite.

The Admonish Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz sherry
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz cointreau
  • a single curl of orange peel

Mix everything together in a glass with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain out the ice and garnish with orange peel.

Sip ponderously while thinking deeply about all that is wrong with the world. And with you.