Thursday, December 18, 2014

Which Christmas?

C. S. Lewis speaks of three different holidays involved in Christmas. One is a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Despite much speculation, we are not sure when Christ was born. But December 25 is traditional and is as good a day as any to remember Christ's birth. There is a question whether it is a replacement for a pagan holiday. I am not sure it is. I am less sure that it matters. I have a great deal of sympathy with Gregory the Great's policy of replacing pagan holidays with Christian holidays. People like to celebrate. You can cancel all the holidays and be a killjoy. You can try to force people to celebrate some different time, which becomes a war. Or you can try to give new meanings to the old celebrations, which has its drawbacks but is not necessarily the worst choice.

Then there is the idea of a general time for celebration. I agree with Lewis in being very much in favor of celebrating. Nor do I see any problem with celebration in connection with the coming of Christ. It is a cause for celebration. Now there is a delicate balance here between Christian celebration and the celebration of the world. The Christian has better reason to celebrate, but must do it with a degree of restraint. There has historically been a danger of falling into the world's excesses on Christmas. But that should not be a basis for avoiding celebrating, though it may be a reason to make the celebration more Christian.

But the third holiday is what Lewis calls the commercial racket. This can easily become a celebration of greed. Now store owners have to live, like everybody else. And there is a legitimate joy, particularly for children, in receiving presents. But when the commercial aspect overtakes the idea of commemoration and celebration, there is a problem. It is hard to know where to draw the line, but when the whole thing becomes a burden rather than a joy, it needs to be reconsidered. And when we make the chief thing concern about what other people think, rather than what is enjoyable, there is a problem. People speak of the war on Christmas, and sometimes I wish the secular side would win. Then they could take the commercial holiday and celebrate it without too close a connection with anything Christian. And Christmas could become a holiday largely celebrated by Christians. But I doubt anything so practical is going to happen. However, I would recommend for Christians to emphasize the Christian and celebration parts of the holiday. And to minimize the commercial. Perhaps it would help to think of them as three holidays. And to ask which Christmas we are celebrating.    



  1. Also, I am wondering if you might be interested in being a prayer blogger at the Daily Prayer blog? Your commitment would be to post a prayer once a week (which can be scheduled in advance). Tuesday or Thursday is currently open. You can view the blog and get a feel for it at Just send me an email ( if you are interested, let me know which day works for you and I will send you an invitation. Okay if not.-Blessings, Bob

    1. Thank you for the offer. I will check it out and get back to you.