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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

Fourth Day of Christmas    

Tuesday, December 28 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster


Judy Rose is taking the day off, so I'll take
this opportunity to continue my series of responses
to a proposal that Christmas should not be kept

Getting a late start for today, I'll try to make this short and quick. Over the past two days I've had a thought that supplements the discussion earlier about how Christmas got started in the Christian community. Last week I presented a fictional, but generally true-to-life, scenario for how Christians in isolated parishes in the churches of the pagan Roman world turned the pagan festival of the sun into the feast of the Sun of Righteousness, a name for the Messiah prophesied in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament.

In reflecting on this, I saw an analogy to my story last week to the development of a relatively new "holiday" in many evangelical and fundamentalist churches—New Years. I'm not sure that those who haven't been in one of the churches that holds "watchnight services" know what they are. But in my experience they've been an attempt to combine prayer, praise, thanksgiving and celebration into a New Year's Eve get-together in the church. I remember one at the First Baptist Church in Vintondale many years ago, but know that many other evangelical churches do similar programs for New Year's Eve. The probable motivation mainly is providing Christians an alternative to revelry accompanied by drunkenness, debauchery, bad jokes and talk, and appreciating the fact that the new year should be dedicated to the Lord from the get-go. I've always considered it a charming and positive application of the Gospel call to give Christ first place in all our lives, including our celebrations of supposedly secular occasions.

What's the difference between "watchnight" and how Christmas originated at least in some of the earliest parishes that celebrated it? In theory, very little. In practice, "watchnight" hasn't caught up as rapidly as Christmas did, but it still has potential for growth. I've never heard of any liturgical churches like my Orthodox faith having "watchnights," for New Year's, though all-night Bible reading and prayer services (vigil) have been part of Orthodoxy from the beginning, still practiced regularly in monastic settings, but also in many parishes between Good Friday and Pascha (Easter).

Another similar analogy is the American and Canadian celebration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Many Protestant churches treat it as a day of religious observances, even having several hymns that are reserved for almost exclusive use on Thanksgiving ("Harvest Home," "We Gather Together"). And like Christmas, Thanksgiving has at least one "secular" song, too ("Over the River and Through the Woods") and the elementary-level school children usually do art projects for it, creating turkeys, pilgrims, and other representations. Even some Catholic and Orthodox churches have special liturgical services for the national Thanksgiving, although their main service every Sunday also is a thanksgiving one, that being the meaning of the word "Eucharist." Gifts are not exchanged at Thanksgiving so far as I know, but in the super market world, Thanksgiving week is one of the most profitable ones of the year and highly commercialized.

What's wrong with fake turkeys or drawing icons of them? Is it a lie to celebrate it on the Thursday after the Fourth Monday in November when that is not the date the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving? Is it wrong for Christians to pay attention to a secular President's annual declaration that giving thanks is being requested from the churches and all the people every year at that time? Is it sinful to have a rich banquet in such a trumped up occasion? Ironically, the Puritans who had trouble with celebrating Christmas back in Colonial times didn't have the same reservations about Thanksgiving.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

First article in this series | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth | Sixth

A complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonals for 2001 - 2004

It's the thought that counts

After being away on business, Tim thought it would be nice to take his wife a little gift. "How about some perfume?" he asked the cosmetics clerk. She showed him a bottle costing $50. "That's a bit much," said Tim, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30. "That's still quite a bit," Tim complained. Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15 bottle. "What I mean," said Tim, "is I'd like to see something really cheap and nasty."

The clerk handed him a mirror.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz  

Thought for today

If we were brought to trial for the crimes we have committed against ourselves, few would escape the gallows.

Paul Eldridge  

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