the obligatory anti-Christmas post

Folks, it’s that time of year again.

I know I have this rule that you should never talk about how rubbish Christmas is at Christmas time. August is best, I feel. But here we are, and August has slipped past again, and still Something Must Be Said.

So, Christmas.

1) The religious problem. As everyone knows, it’s a pagan festival, insinuated into the Christian church by way of exploiting the loose connections between heathen myths and the facts of Christian history. Whatever is the reason for this season, Jesus is not it.

2) The church angle. As everyone knows, the virgin birth actually happened. The Son of God did become man. This is immense. On the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, all our salvation depends.

But the festivals and celebrations of the Christian church are constrained by what Christ has actually ordained. What Christ has ordained is a weekly celebration of his resurrection in the Lord’s day, a one-off symbolisation of regeneration for every believer in their baptism, and a regular symbolisation of ongoing dependence for every believer in the Lord’s supper.

Christmas isn’t in Christ’s list. Nor, for that matter, is Easter, or Lent, or any of the other days vulgarly called holy days. The Christian Church has no right to summon anyone to church services to celebrate Christ’s birth at this time of year. We have all year round to remember and worship on account of this amazing thing, that Christ Jesus came into the world, to save sinners.

3) The cultural angle. As everyone knows, this time of year is a riot of spending too much, eating too much, drinking too much, partying too much, and stressing too much. Whether it’s tacky Christmas, or sophisticated Christmas, or nostalgic Christmas, it’s synonymous with consumerism, materialism, and excess. Most people shopping for presents are not enjoying themselves. Most people preparing huge dinners are glad when it’s over. Most people listening to Christmas music on every possible radio station and in every possible shop eventually find themselves with earworm.

People who have been brought up in Christmas-free families should be deeply, madly, passionately appreciative of that fact. It means you know the gospel truth about the incarnation, untainted by sacrilegious nativity scenes. It means you can go to church all and only those times when God wants you to be in church, and not when tradition dictates. It means you don’t need to buy into an annual commercialised frenzy of tinsel, trees, turkey trimmings, Santas, stockings, sleigh bells, wreaths, crackers, carols, party hats, watch night services, work nights out, and fill in the rest of the paraphernalia for yourself. Or rather, don’t. Don’t be distracted from things that actually matter, by adopting cultural practices that are alien to your own worldview and lifestyle, and and that are in any case a burden grievous to be borne by people who don’t have the same heritage of religious liberty and freedom.

Instead, embrace and celebrate being Christmas-free. Rally your peers and support each other in your Christmas-avoidance when you get together. Let your gatherings be safe spaces where nobody needs to find excuses to get out of the Christmas party. Just think of how dispiriting it is to be struggling, isolated, in the office or at school or uni to behave with integrity and with courtesy – to walk that tightrope between violating your conscience before God and avoiding giving needless offence to colleagues and peers in all the delicate social situations that arise – only to be confronted with exactly the same dilemmas when you meet up with people who should be on exactly the same wavelength. Christmas is something you can safely stay at least a bargepole’s distance away from, without missing out on anything of religious benefit or cultural merit. And I’m putting a note in my diary to say the same again next August.

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3 thoughts on “the obligatory anti-Christmas post

  1. Thank you. Are (at least some) Scottish presbyterians allowed a Christmas-free December? I’m tempted to the sin of envy. How often here in England I’ve wished the date were 1640 and I could go round instructing people that plum pie is popish, without fear of contradiction.

    A few things tend to make me into a feeble compromiser (sorry that should read, adopt a nuanced position) on the matter. First, one has to beware of the genetic fallacy: that is, pagan origins may but don’t necessarily mean that an institution is pagan. Secondly, there are lots of problems with a Christmas-free December if one has work colleagues, neighbours, children. Are the battles worth fighting, the arguments worth having? Thirdly, there is the argument about loss of evangelistic opportunity which does carry some weight, if not as much as some people claim. Fourthly I really enjoy the food provided it’s done properly. That said, I’d trade Christmas dinner for one profound, soul-stirring sermon on the theology of the incarnation which, because it’s Christmas and a time for dumbing down, we won’t get at this or any other time of the year.

  2. Yes, the pagan thing only matters in the context of the religious significance – I’m sure plenty cultural conventions were/are/have been shared by pagans without anybody needing to bat an eyelid.

    Second, the battles need to be fought tactfully, because the point is not to be the Anti-Christmas One but ideally just a Christian. I don’t have any magic formula for dealing with colleagues et al – I’m sure I make compromises that other people would be shocked at, and vice versa.

    Third, ok, sort of, except far less convincing in churches that never used to have Christmas services and make evangelism an excuse for starting – it’s hardly a loss of opportunity if the church was never open that day anyway.

    Can’t argue with the fourth!

  3. You are factually incorrect about the date of the Nativity which has nothing to do with paganism, is established by Scripture and attested to in the second century.

    http://taylormarshall.com/2012/12/yes-christ-was-really-born-on-december.html

    The evidence in scripture that the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday is circumstantial at best. The claim rests not on scripture but tradition. The Lord Himself (John 10:22) observed the Feast of Dedication instituted by men and in a book that is not found in Protestant bibles (1 Macc 4:56). This feast is the lunar equivalent of His own nativity and on the occasion recorded in John He delivered some of His clearest teaching about His own Sonship and the adoptive sonship of the faithful. Not, perhaps, a coincidence.

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