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9.5 Curmudgeonly Christmas Theses

Kyle has once again declared War on Christmas. Joshua gets it, and has joined the fight. (What is it with those Georgetonians?) In honor of the occasion, here are some theses for your consideration. Since I’m at best only a tenth as radical as Martin Luther, I’ll limit myself to nine and a half of them:

(1) Christmas is a religious holiday with Christian origins. We Christians have always dovetailed it into other cultural celebrations, or outsiders have tried to piggyback their celebrations onto Christmas?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùas, for example, when the birth of Mithras began to be celebrated on December 25 several centuries after the birth of Christ. This fact should encourage us to use discernment in which cultural add-ons we accept and which ones we leave aside.

(2) The non-Christian festive accretions are not all bad. I personally like turkey dinner, Christmas trees, elves, gift-giving, and even goofy holiday songs like ?¢‚Ǩ?ìJingle Bells?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and Ray Stevens’ ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSanta Claus is Watching You.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù I don’t mind if Rebecca looks forward to presents on Christmas day as long as she understands that Jesus is the best gift of all.

(3) What I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t like is Christians who can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t seem to tell the difference between the spiritual core of the holiday (holy day) and the optional accoutrements. If Santa Claus is going to be making an appearance at your church this December, shame on you! Although I might be persuaded to forgive and forget if Saint Nicholas shows up on December 6 (his feast day), decked out in proper fourth-century clerical vestments. He need not punch out any Arians this time to make his point about the doctrine of the Incarnation.

(4) What I really can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t stand is when the malls jump the gun on the year-end shopping extravaganza by putting up their holiday decorations well before Halloween. C?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢mon, people, is business really so bad you have to start egging us on that early?

(5) Putting up holiday decorations that early has even brainwashed Christians to the point that they don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know when Christmas begins and ends. Brothers and sisters, Advent is not the same thing as Christmas! It is a period of spiritual reflection as we await the coming of the Savior. Fasting is (or should be) involved. Christmas begins on sundown December 24 and continues for the next twelve days. You know: the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtwelve days of Christmas?¢‚Ǩ¬ù we sometimes sing about?

(6) Anyway, because this shopping frenzy is at best tangentially related to celebrations of the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d really prefer it if the retailers would quit wishing me a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMerry Christmas.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHappy Holidays?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is just fine for the generic, homogenized festival of gross consumerism. Christ is probably embarrassed to be associated with such foolishness. I know I am.

(7) Speaking of this ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMerry Christmas?¢‚Ǩ¬ù business: it has kind of lost its punch, don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t you think? Everybody says it, except for those aforementioned retail stores that have gratefully acknowledged that Christ has nothing to do with the spending orgy over which they preside. In Eastern Orthodoxy, you wish people Christmas blessings by saying, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìChrist is born!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù to which the response is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìGlorify him!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù That works for me.

(8) And another thing: I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m with Kyle. Let?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s put the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMass?¢‚Ǩ¬ù back in ?¢‚Ǩ?ìChristmas.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m already looking forward to receiving Holy Communion at my parents?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ church in Michigan on Christmas Eve. I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t care if you do it high-church, low-church, or somewhere-in-between-church, but what is the sense in belaboring the point about Jesus being the reason for the season if you can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t find a couple hours to get yourself to church sometime between sundown December 24 and sundown December 25 and, you know, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìGlorify him?¢‚Ǩ¬ù?

(9) And I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m serious about the Communion part, too. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s the central feature of all genuinely Christian worship. Let?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s see if we can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t figure out a way to celebrate it on one of Christianity?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s central feasts.

(9.5) Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t even get me started on Kwanzaa!

technorati tags: advent, christmas, consumerism, happy holidays, merry christmas, war on christmas


  1. PS says:

    Great list. Especially #4,5,& 6. I always struggle with what to accomodate and what parts of the cultural Christmas to ignore. Makes me grumpy to see all the commercialism when I think of the commands of Jesus to take care of the poor.


  2. Psalmist says:

    Preach it, brother!

    (Not sure where you’re coming from on Kwaanza, but since that’s not the same thing as Christmas anyway, I’m not going to worry about it.)

    And amen many times concerning there being a distinction between Advent and Christmas. I think part of the problem is that people are being lazy. They do the secular Christmas thing well–too well, perhaps–and rely on getting all their “real” Christmas from church. And when they do that, their point is well-taken; Christmas is over pretty quickly if you only get it on the Sunday(s) between 12/24 and 1/6. It makes sense, from that perspective, to mimic the secular world and “jump the gun” on Christmas at church, too. I’m not a total stick-in-the mud concerning absolutely no Christmas carols until Christmas Eve (evening), but I try to be very discerning in choosing carols for the Sundays of Advent that echo the Advent message in the readings for those mornings…and there is ALWAYS at least one clearly Advent carol. (You know the Bible Belt, DP! Even that bit of holding fast can be met with resistance.) I think we do a decent–not perfect–job here with meeting people where they are in their Advent-ignorance and helping them find ways to celebrate the waiting as well as the Arrival.

    Anyway, please know that you blessed me with this entry. Happy thanksgiving to you and all those you love. You’re one of the blessings in my life.


  3. Michael Westmoreland-White says:

    I prefer our church’s “Reclaiming Christmas” projects. We celebrate with carols, etc., but buy as little as possible for ourselves and families and use the money saved for mission/development projects. This year we are raising funds for a teacher for Tarmilac, Morocco.


  4. SingingOwl says:



  5. Jim Olson says:

    And again, I say, Amen.

    Christmas Eve, I’m preaching. It will sound a lot like the 9 points just outlined above. Then I will preside at the Eucharist.

    Let’s indeed put the “mass” back into Christmas!


  6. D. P. says:

    Thanks, Jim, and welcome.


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