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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

Happy New Year!  
Twelfth Night  

Wednesday, January 5 2005

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Christmas questions, finale

Concluding my series responding to a
proposal that Christians not celebrate Christmas

Two situations reported earlier in this series have changed. Last Wednesday I reported, "I've had no seconding of his original sentiment from other readers or to this series...." Since then, a list member reported that her family has been affected by a dispute on the very questions we've been considering. And on Monday, after saying "the author of the original challenge to Christmas has not answered any of my questions directed to him," he sent a four-part letter restating many of the questions I'd already answered in the series and revealing that the religious source of his material is the Jehovah's Witnesses, a group I guessed earlier could be behind the attack on Christmas. As I'd said today's installment will be the finale in this series, I'm not going to continue answering his points, but they are on our Letters Forum if you're interested. (And here's a website with links to many views regarding the JW's that are a counterpoint to some points in his letter.)

To sum up what I consider the Christian view of Christmas, I end with three major reasons for keeping this crown of the Western world's yearly calendar....

Joy One of the "secular" Christmas songs that has made an impression on me from my season's playlist for the past three years says, "Christmas is for children...children like you and me." All of us Christmas people remember the sparkle in our parents' eyes when they got us in the Christmas mood in our own childhood, and we in our turn tried to convey the same warm enthusiasm about a special time when telling our children about it. This day of days was when children would be the center of attention, when the family would be united without conflict, when everything done for most of a month was about making the whole experience of life special, unforgettable, as perfect as possible. It was a time of joy to the world.

Evangelism A Presbyerian preacher who made a big impression on me in my youth used to say often in the Christmas season, "Christmas is for the Christians." He didn't mean to make anyone feel excluded but rather was inviting everyone who wanted Christmas in their hearts to prepare those hearts by first letting Christ in, for only then would the fullness of the Christmas event become known, comprehended, shared. I know there is much dissonance at the so-called "holiday season," people are blue, many hopes are dashed, raised expectations are not met. And the only antidote to these Christmas failings is to keep your eye on the true prize, God's greatest gift to the world, our Savior who is Christ the Lord.

So much expectation is invested into Christmas that one of its greatest dangers is that there will be "too much." Too much decorating, too many songs and carols, too many obligations to fulfill in too little time, too many expenses to meet. I read the other day a column of Christmas reflections in which the columnist said she doesn't want to hear "Jingle Bells" even once after December 25. In other words, to her it's all too much. She feels obligated to participate, but finds little or no joy in it. The best thing to such people is just getting through it. What a tragedy, in my view. Now that I've thrown off the shackles of radio programming, my music is all Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving until Twelfth Night. And if there gets to be a problem with that, the problem is me.

Cultural Formation Despite all the grinches of recent years trying to spoil Christmas for those who want it, and spoiling it primarily for this generation of children, there has been no greater contributor to Western Civilization than the celebration of the incarnation of God with us. What inspires more choir programs on college campuses, more programs with festive music, words, and singing by audiences in downtown venues? What even gets teenagers to spontaneously take to the streets and make gifts of songs to their neighbors? What music is more sublime in all the panoply of Western Civilation than Handel's Messiah and the French carol, O Holy Night? What's more human, yet as divine, as Martin Luther's Away In A Manger?

Which brings us back to Charles Dickens and the entry that started this whole discourse on December 13. I don't agree with Australian journalist Imre Salusinszky's observation that she "was struck by the almost total absence of any mention of Christianity" in Dickens' Christmas Carol. To the contrary, I think Christianity permeates Dickens' whole fictionalization of what Christmas spirit is all about. We give because He gave, who gave Himself. The ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future aren't exactly orthodox Christian images, but there are many allusions to church, charity, and all in the name of the one whom Tiny Tim wanted everyone to remember when they looked at him on his crutches.

Not long ago I read the life of a Russian holy monk whose godly wisdom and love drew people for many miles to seek his guidance, who lived a generation after Dickens. When asked to recommend some spiritual reading, he recommended Charles Dickens' fiction because he felt Dickens captured true humanity as bearer of the image of God. Read The Christmas Carol again next Christmas season to your children or grandchildren. You'll be giving them, and most likely yourself, one of the best gifts.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Series: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

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

Who's calling?

At her father’s wake, a woman told her priest that ever since she was a child she and her father had discussed life after death. They had agreed that whoever went first would contact the other. They had discussed this again just two weeks before his death. He died in her home and a few days after his death the smoke alarm in her garage went off. She had lived there 28 years and it had never gone off before. She couldn’t turn it off so she called the security company that installed it.

The next morning the smoke alarm sounded again…and the reason finally dawned on her...she said aloud, “Ok, Dad, I missed the signal yesterday, but I get it now! Thanks for letting me know that you are safe on the other side. Now turn the thing off so I don’t have to call the security company again.’’ And it went off. She immediately called her priest to tell him the good news.

“Dear lady,” he replied, “if every time your father sent you a message, he set off the smoke alarm, just where do you think he’s calling from?”

— Sent by Barbara Courtney 

Thought for today

Many promising reconciliations have broken down because while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither party came prepared to be forgiven.

Charles Williams  

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