Thanks to all who commented on yesterday’s post, especially to those who pointed me to other articles. Looking at all that’s been said (I’d encourage you to read Jay Guin’s post “Regarding Christmas,” then look through some of the links in the comments section as well), I hesitate to add much more.
But of course I will. :-)
Over at Brian Nicklaus’ blog, I left a comment stating that I’m more comfortable with Charles Dickens’ Christmas than I am the pope’s. I’m glad the world is thinking about Christ in even the tiniest way. I worry about what Christians are doing about it.
The question bears asking “Why December 25?” The answer that it’s an ancient tradition doesn’t fly with me. The earliest references to Christians celebrating Jesus’ birth refer to it as an oddity, not as general practice. Early Reformers saw it as a Catholic tradition, not one pertaining to general Christianity.
There is an ancient tradition of celebrating tomorrow, December 8, as the day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The same groups kept that alive all these years that preserved the December 25 date. Why has Protestantism in general accepted their testimony on one celebration and not on the other? [For those wanting to return the U.S. to her Christian roots, remember that this is the patronal saint day of the United States]
Many have celebrated Mary’s ascension to heaven on August 15, with traces back to the fourth century. It’s a public holiday in over a dozen countries. Why not hold onto that ancient tradition as well?
And why is so little attention given to Epiphany? Whether you follow the Western churches (celebrating the visit of the Magi) or the Eastern churches (celebrating Jesus’ baptism), this feast is connected with an actual event that we can read about in the Bible, unlike the previous two that I mentioned. (Though some argue that the ascension of Mary is seen in Revelation 12) And if we’re going to sing about the 12 days of Christmas, why do we stop the celebration on the first day and not go through Epiphany, the 12th day?
It’s cool today to say “Let’s connect with historic Christianity by celebrating the Christian calendar.” If we’re really going to do that, we’ve got a lot more dates to add. Why one feast (or two, if you count Easter) and not the others? For more years than not, the bulk of Christendom celebrated these days.
There’s no good answer as to why we would set aside December 25 as the time to commemorate Jesus’ birth. And it doesn’t take much to see that focusing on Jesus’ birth at this one time of year pretty much eliminates any awareness of that event at other times.
I’m convinced of the value of promoting an awareness of Christ at this time and supporting the idea of the “Christmas spirit” in general society. I’m still not convinced of the value of imitating other Christians just for the sake of imitating them. I’m not big on “slippery slope” arguments (as they say, if you accept one of them, you have to accept them all), but this seems to be a step in a dangerous direction. Maybe not the action itself, but the line of reasoning (or lack of reasoning).
So who’ll join me in July to celebrate the coming of Christ?