A Christmas Essay

I have more friends and associates than I can enumerate, and that’s a good thing. It would have been nice to win the Powerball Lottery (no, I don’t play), but I count my wealth in friends rather than gold.

Naturally, these friends are all over the ideological spectrum: some are devout Christian evangelicals, some are devotees of other faiths, others equally dedicated humanists, deists, atheists, anti-theists, and everything in between – and I do my best to respect them all.

And now it’s the Christmas season.

My son’s fiancée posted this on Facebook yesterday…

And my son followed it up with this video as a comment:

I watch with interest as the Christmas season draws nearer, and the blogosphere and social media sites fill up with comments about what the holiday means, who should be celebrating it, and why, and when, and begin to cast aspersions on the common sense, parentage, IQ and chromosomal structure of those who think differently.

It’s sad, really – because it’s an unwinnable argument; everyone gets to choose what the holiday means to them, and act accordingly.

Take the video above: The points it makes are matters of historical record, and I found very little in the essay to argue with. But the creator’s conclusion – that because of the things mentioned in the video, he chooses not to celebrate Christmas – seems to have shot wide of the mark.

C.S. Lewis posited that the historical Jesus was either God or fraud, with no room for the “great human teacher” argument. [1]  Personally I’m OK with that assessment, but I know that there are just about as many opinions about Yeshua of Nazareth as there are people. Whatever one may believe about the historical figure, a few things are consistent across most accounts.

  • He was supremely kind to those who were different, in trouble, or down and out.
  • He had no patience with hypocrisy and oppression in the name of self-righteousness
  • He helped others wherever he could, fed the hungry, administered to the ill, comforted the sad, and encouraged the weak.
  • Everything he did in the way of lifting the human condition, he encouraged others to do likewise.

The estimable Mr. Lewis notwithstanding, that would be a life worth celebrating.

It is true that over the last two millennia, more evil has been perpetrated in the name of faith; but in contrast, an equal if not greater amount of good has been done as well. The first gets the headlines and is widely pointed to by opponents of religion; the second is done quietly, in bedrooms, back streets, alleys, and out-of-the-way places, and rarely attracts the attention of a media dedicated to selling advertising.

Over the last two millennia, the public celebration of Christmas has morphed from a religious feast day into an orgiastic frenzy of obscene consumption. Society at large has indeed succeeded in taking Christ out of Christmas, leaving nothing but a mass: a mass of confusion, a mass of greed, a mass of debt, and a mass of emptiness; but in countless homes around the world, there are those who celebrate the season by striving to live lives worthy of that original One; lifting the hands that hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees of others in need. Each of us gets to choose, and each of us gets to be right about our choice. We are free to look at the Christmas holiday as a reminder of all the hypocrisy and evil perpetrated in the name of faith by those who have lost sight of what the original Jesus was about; or, as the words of a lovely song state so well, we can choose to see the holiday as something else:

Christmas is a feeling filling the air,
It’s love and joy and laughter of people everywhere.
Christmas is a feeling bringing good cheer;
It reaches out to touch you when the holidays draw near.

Along with Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens ranks very high on my list of important and human writings. The transformation of Scrooge from all that our society today embodies – cold, commercial, heartless, penurious, usurious, and cruel – into someone who captured that feeling of joy and a desire to reach out and do good to all who crossed his path, underscores once again that we are at choice about how we view this holiday season. Each year the words bring me back, and I yearn to read the story again, each time with fresh eyes:


“[Scrooge] became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world … and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!” – Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

We live in a peculiar, complex, and often bizarre and frightening world – but like Scrooge, despite the challenges, I would “honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year,” pushing back against the tide and celebrating goodness, and giving, and helping everyone to win. That’s how I want to keep Christ in Christmas. Others may disagree, but that’s their privilege.

The Old Wolf has chosen.

[1] “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

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