Scene: A courtroom.
Saint Nicolaus and Mary, mother of Jesus, approach a judge.
Judge. This court will now come to order. The case Nicolaus v. Mary shall proceed in order to determine the proper ownership of the holiday of Christmas. Mother Mary, you may make your statement first.
Mary. Thank you, your honor. Let me open by saying, tho it might seem self-evident to do so, that the very holiday of Christmas was named in reverence to my son, and He should justly be the central element of its celebrations. And in as much as the holiday was bestowed upon His miraculous nativity, it should be considered a birthright. I know that legally this poses a problem given that His birthdate may not be December 25th. Even I do not know His history so well. I was poor back then and uneducated and knew little of calendars and seasonal cycles. However, that birthdate was established in good faith, and should not prevent the holiday of Christmas from being kept in our lineage. That is all.
Judge. Alright. Thank you for your statement. Now, Saint Nicolaus, you may make your initial statement.
Nicolaus. Thank you, your honor. I do not dispute most of what Mother Mary has so eloquently stated. However, a holiday belongs not to its progenitors but to its adherents. Over the millinea Christmas has evolved, and tho its heart and soul belong with Christ, its body continues grow and change and take on new identities. I do believe that in these modern times I am best able to keep the spirit of giving, the spirit of family and togetherness alive and thriving. I do not wish to dishonor Christ by asking for ownership of the holiday but to honor his mission by bringing it fully into a new era. That is my intention.
Judge. Yes. Thank you for your statement. Now, I have some questions for each of you pertaining to this matter. First, for Nicolaus, I must ask you why you believe ownership of the Christmas holiday would help you in your mission.
Nicolaus. I have given much thought to this same question. Every tradition faces pressure to change with the times and thus separates its followers into modernists and conservatives. The latter hold the greatest traction intially and bring a very rational caution to embracing the transformation. I believe in the end that new leadership is required to fully modernize a social institution–by providing a kind of tipping point for the modernists efforts.
Judge. If you’ll pardon me, is what you state that a simple change of ownership in this case will adjust attitudes toward Christmas in your favor?
Nicolaus. I believe so. We have all certainly heard of the “War on Christmas”. Its purveyors operate upon paeans to traditional modes of celebration. This would be much more difficult under my ownership of the holiday.
Judge. How so? It still seems to me that your argument aims largely toward symbolic transformations.
Nicolaus. It does, yet symbolism makes up the core of any sacred ritual. Whosoever can speak for Christmas shall define its language.
Mary. If I may interject, your honor.
Judge. You may do so.
Mary. With due respect to Saint Nicolaus, his argument does imply that my ownership of Christmas would bolster the credibility of the current conservative position on the holiday. However, its appeal is to more of a Dickensian model of alms than a Christ-centered one.
Nicolaus. Nevertheless, they might hold you as a pillar of their viewpoint but would sound absurd doing so in my name.
Mary. From a certain standpoint, that is superficially true. Even so, this is not a spiritual matter but a political one.
Judge. Now, why do you consider this a political issue, Mother Mary?
Mary. Politicians have always co-opted religion to provide ballast for its ambitions. Those with a transformative social or economic agenda require a perceived triumph in a moral struggle to acquire the consent of the governed. Both tyrrany and democracy have flourished from the seed of the righteous cause, yet this is irrelevant in spiritual matters. Virtue is not victory or defeat. It is the aggregate of moral struggle itself.
Nicolaus. Again tho, I would say that politically motivated individuals could far more credibly invoke your name than mine.
Mary. Would our situation not reverse if you gained ownership?
Judge. Yes, that is a very good question. Would you not become a more political figure symbolically if the ownership of Christmas fell to you?
Nicolaus. Inevitably, yet the content of the debate would shift as well and eventually resign to a new footing, one likely of a more modernized form.
Judge. Alright. Now, the central issue as I see it . . .
Clerk. Your honor! I apologize for interrupting. However, an urgent document has arrived which bears greatly upon these proceedings.
Judge. Just now? Bring it to me.
Nicolaus. What does it say, your honor?
Judge. It . . . is a ruling from another court . . . just settled this morning. In summary, it grants trademark rights for the name Christmas to online retailer Amazon.com.
Nicolaus. This cannot be!
Mary. Surely, this is a terrible mistake!
Judge. I shall review the document further, yet I do believe this other court’s decision renders these proceedings immaterial.
Mary simply broke down and cried.
Nicolaus sought to comfort her but could not help shedding tears himself.
The courtroom became empty, eventually, as all things do.
The gift it bestowed was never meant to be sequestered anyway.
Copyright 2011 by Michael Marsters.
All rights reserved.