Have you ever seen something that was created to be complex and complicated, yet perform an extremely simple task? Sometimes for entertainment and sometimes for amusement, people design really wild convoluted contraptions to perform rather ordinary chores. If you’ve ever seen such a contraption, you may have heard the term, “Rube Goldberg.” Webster’s dictionary describes Rube Goldberg as “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.” Those devices are named after Ruben Lucius Goldberg, a cartoonist, author, engineer and inventor born in late 1883. He became famous through a series of cartoons he developed that depicted convoluted ways to perform simple very functions. Here is an example of his “self-operating napkin.”
Rube’s legacy lives on through creative contests that have become educational events for high school and college students. Watching these creative and complex devices is entertaining. Thousands of hours and remarkable sums of money are invested in creating these intricate machines.
Rube Goldberg machines remind me of an annual celebration in the US that has become much more complex than necessary. Yet, rather than being entertaining and educational, this yearly event has become laborious and exhausting for most. Ironically, the original event began as simple expression of God’s love and compassion. Somehow over the years, the celebration has grown in size and scope so that it has become distorted and barely recognizable. It is “laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.”
In this case, though, it is hardly comical. By now, you are probably aware that I’m talking about our celebration of Christmas. Many of us get exhausted just thinking about it – the shopping, the entertaining, the spending, the debt, the chaos, the traffic – It can be overwhelming and will leave many of us empty and depressed. That was never God’s intention! Instead let’s try the practices of slowing, simplifying, giving, worshipping and being present with others.
While we may appreciate Ruben Lucius Goldberg and the legacy he provided, let’s ensure our celebration of our Lord’s birth minimizes chaos and maximizes meaning