As we draw near Christmas, I’m surrounded by colored lights, holiday decorations, snow flurries, advertisements, and peppermint-flavored things. I’ve wrapped gifts, played Christmas music, grumbled about the cold, drunk too much coffee, and fled in horror from the tawdry inflatable snowmen standing, smiling and sinister, on the front lawns of neighborhood homes. (Those things are evil, man.)
I’ve thought a lot about Christmas this year, but none of my thoughts are substantial enough to deserve their own posts on this blog. Thus I’ve decided to throw all of my Christmas musings into a single post. Here we go!
I’m becoming less cynical about the holidays.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post in which I grumbled about the frivolity of the Christmas season:
I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I enjoy the traditions, the nostalgia, the delicious food, the beautiful lights, the exciting gifts and some of the music. I despise the unapologetic, matter-of-fact way companies use the holiday to make money. I’m also pained by the growing superficiality of Christmas. The birth of Christ has become an afterthought.
Nietzsche informed us that God is dead. I disagree, but suspect Christmas might be dying—slowly passing away in a blaze of colored lights and cacophony of seasonal music.
I’m still a cynical grump about the Christmas season—in fact, I’m grumpy and cynical about a lot of things—but my attitude toward Christmas has softened over the past year or two.
Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill even among nonreligious people. It’s a time for reminiscence, family, forgiveness, generosity, and eating lots of cookies. Apart from the holiday’s spiritual significance, many of its secular aspects are beautiful, good, and meaningful.
I certainly don’t consider the secular aspects of Christmas equal to its spiritual ones. For all its warm feelings and bright colors, Christmas is pretty empty without Christ. I cherish the fun traditions of Christmas because of the hope underlying them.
All the same, I’m learning to respect that Christmas has value even as a secular holiday, and I should sometimes keep my sneers and cries of “Humbug!” to myself.
A lot of Christmas music is really stupid.
Amy Green, a phenomenal blogger and aspiring heretic, has already discussed lousy Christmas songs. I will add only one observation. There are sane human beings who enjoy songs like “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and this fact is an appalling indictment of the human race.
Nobody ever seems to remember the historical context of Christmas.
We all know Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. We’re familiar with the characters and set pieces of the Nativity: the inn, shepherds, angels, and all the rest. What we forget is that Christ’s birth was an event in history. It didn’t have a simple beginning or a neat happily-ever-after ending.
Christmas began in ancient Israel. Prophets hinted vaguely at the arrival of the Messiah, God’s chosen hero, and then prophecies ceased. God’s people were scattered and exiled. For centuries, the descendants of Israel watched empires rise and fall around them, and waited—probably without much hope—for their Messiah.
Jesus Christ was born into a remote corner of the vast Roman empire. He wasn’t the hero anyone expected or wanted. In fact, he baffled everyone, including his own parents, his followers, and the authorities who eventually sentenced him to death. Christ lived, died, and was raised to life by the power of God. He became the founder of a new faith, which has rocked the world for two millennia.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
We think of Christmas as merely the Nativity, and that’s a shame. The broader historical context and religious significance of Christ’s birth are fascinating.
Arthur Christmas is the best Christmas movie I’ve ever seen.
Seriously, go watch it.
Time is running out for TMTF’s Christmas fundraisers!
The Living Water fundraiser will run for a couple of months after Christmas, but I’d love to hit its goal by the end of December. The Child’s Play fundraiser will conclude at the end of the month, so time is running out!
If you’re not sure why I’m blathering about fundraisers, please see here for details.
Working together, we can make this Christmas truly awesome for people in need. Please consider giving!
We wish you a happy Christmas!
My typewriter monkeys and I—well, mostly I—wish you the best of all possible Christmases, and a bright start to the new year!
Arthur Christmas is probably my favorite Christmas movie ever. No surprise Sarah and Andrew introduced the rest of my family to it.
Also, some of those Christmas songs are deplorable. I’ve enjoyed several renditions of “Little Drummer Boy” though. I’ve discovered that many classic tunes can be wonderful or horrible/boring, depending on the version. As for original songs, I’ll just say that it makes me actually angry when I hear “Santa Baby” or “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on the radio.
I don’t know if you’ve played any Legend of Zelda games, but this Zelda-themed parody nearly makes “All I Want for Christmas Is You” tolerable. 🙂