December 5, 2020





Update: Only a few have commented on the word “Abiguity”. I am interested in hearing what people might think about why I used that word.


  1. This Christmas season is a good opportunity to mention Christ Jesus in some way, as the situation might reveal.

    Not to harden people’s hearts to Him any further.


  2. We don’t need to be reactionary about defending the MEANING of Christmas. We just need to celebrate what the date of December 25th represents. In TRUTH, I mean, NOT the consumerism. So much of what we see is just tinsel and bright lights attached to a unremarkable family in dire circumstances…IF, that is, the recorded story isn’t just a myth or allegory.

  3. TO
    as He is
    today, not
    as a manger –
    babe, but as the
    One who lived and
    died and lives
    again, enthroned and
    reigning in our hearts.
    To sense the need of those
    who only know the tinsel
    and the rushing of the crowds,
    who celebrate a day and nothing more – –
    because to them, He slumbers yet at
    To love Him , God’s Living Word, above all else, and
    loving, wish to tell others everywhere
    the Good News of redemption!
    . . . this to us


    My pastor wrote that and we had it on a large Christmas tree shaped plywood in front of our church for many years during Christmas. It is supposed to be written in the shape of a Christmas tree…but I don’t know if it will do that when I post it here.

    We haven’t put it up in several years. No real reason. Probably nobody wants to do all the work getting that sign up and then taking it down afterward.

  4. It is not in the spirit of Christmas when people scream at tired, overworked cashiers at Walmart like myself to say “Merry Christmas,” while maxing out their credit cards in the madness of consumerism. And out of a fear that God’s Kingdom will collapse in ruin if I fail to say it. Somebody’s god is too small.
    One would think people would demonstrate what Christmas/Advent is all about instead of working themselves into a frenzy because somebody says “Happy Holidays,” which is short for “Holy Days” anyway. You can’t keep God out of the Advent season if you tried. The way people go berserk over the word “Xmas” is almost funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Look up the origin of the word, and we find it is an ancient abbreviation for Christmas, the “X” is the Greek letter Chi, standing for Christ, and that abbreviaion, called a nomina sacra is found for Jesus Christ as IX in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.

    Chaplain Mike, I have a story about this to share with you if you like. Please email me. I’d give the link here, but I don’t want to be moderated as a spammer. I ask your permission to share it with you.

    • I posted too soon. And if you want to see a real “War on Christmas,” try England in 1645 under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. They banned Christmas for years, and arrested and fined people for celebrating it.

      I was going to tell that Xmas is not some atheistic attempt to X out the name of Jesus, as if they COULD! Read Psalm 2 and note how hilarious their concern is. People have been trying to do that for over 2000 years, and only succeeded in blotting their own names out, such as Nebuchadnezzar, Pharoah, Herod, Nero, and many, many others. God’s kingdom is secure. Let’s remember that in this Advent season.

      And somebody needs to tell Bill O’Reilly that Christians got along fine for over 400 years without saying “Merry Christmas.”

      • I always thought the “X” was shorthanded for a cross. But how many Christians today (let alone nons) would make that connection…

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          At least you were generous. Most of our more fervent friends can’t wait to display their ignorance in a feveres attack of spittle and decibels.

      • The New England Puritans outlawed Christmas as well.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

          The New England Puritans were *$$holes, pardon my French. Although I am more concerned with their theological justification of slavery and burning witches than what holidays they grinched.

          • You just made me wonder if the New England Puritans wouldn’t have made a better NFL name than the Patriots!

          • That Other Jean says

            Gently, now–the folk of Salem hanged witches (except for the one they pressed to death), but they didn’t burn any. And they decided a little while later that they were wrong to do that, although it didn’t help the dead people any. Puritans didn’t take kindly to heretics like Anne Hutchinson, either. They had all the faults of zealotry, plus a variety of their very own.

    • One would think people would demonstrate what Christmas/Advent is all about instead of working themselves into a frenzy because somebody says “Happy Holidays,” which is short for “Holy Days” anyway.

      Shhhh! Marc, if government officials hear that they just may ban Holidays from official celebrations!

  5. Honestly, I am much more saddened and annoyed by the bunnies, duckies, and candy at Easter than I am by these “Christmas Wars”…….the latter being a tempest in a teapot, in my opinion.

    Christmas is lovely, but we are EASTER people. If Christ was born in a relative’s house in late spring and met the Magi a year later and then left for Egypt at age two…..nothing in my faith changes. NOTHING!

    Having God Incarnate suffer, die a criminal’s death, and RETURN FROM THE DEAD reduced to a rabbit delivering eggs…..that insults the linchpin of my faith. If it is just a day for candy and new clothes and a semi-annual trip to church, then the meaning is defiled and/or ignored.

  6. I’m all about ambiquity, as you’ve entitled your montage.

    As nearly as I can tell, it is a portmanteau of “ambiguous” and “iniquity.” (It certainly cannot be ambivalent + ubiquity as that makes no sense whatsoever.)

    This relates well to people who think they are involved in a good cause, (“protecting” Christianity – whatever that means in a movement founded by an individual who was willing to die in the pursuit of his goals and inspired his 12 closest followers to do the same) but are in reality participating in wickedness. It’s easy for us to spot this in things like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, but less apparent, or shall we say ambiguous, when we are involved in it.

    Well done. Another ground-breaking piece of Christian journalism by the iMonastery.

  7. Given the hypercommercialization of EVERYTHING Christmas-related anymore, the non-Christians can have it and call it whatever they like.

    We’ll always have Advent. 😉

    • Sorry, but the war on Advent has been raging strong for quite some time now. No true believer puts up their Christmas tree a day before the 24th. Just because people want to exploit the shortest season of the church year to make a buck doesn’t mean we should extend it’s celebration to completely overlap and overtake Advent. Pipe down those jolly carols!

      • You’re not helping to dispel the “grumpy Lutheran” stereotype, you know… 😉

        • Richard Hershberger says

          In fairness, many Lutherans will ease up to the extent of putting up the tree the weekend before Christmas. My Catholic wife finds it utterly inexplicable that I refuse to put up the tree early. Last year she put it up and decorated it with the kids. I had nothing to do with it. If it was supposed to be put up in Advent, it would be called an “Advent tree.” Hrrumph!

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            Ah HA!!! If I call my tree an Advent tree, I can put it up early! Thanks, Richard, for showing me that loophole! 😀

          • Richard Hershberger says

            Call it your “Ordinary Time tree” and you can have it up all Summer. You are welcome.

          • Richard – what synod were you raised in? My family (and congregation) were LCA prior to the creation of the ELCA, and while we usually put up our tree in the middle of the month, I can’t remember my parents or grandparents ever associating that directly with Advent/Christmas in quite the way that you and Miguel do.

            I heard lots about how it was nice to be able to enjoy the tree *after* Christmas day (with a side mention of the 12 days of Christmas), and grumbling about people rushing the season by putting up decorations too early, but that’s about it.

            However, there is (or was) a local PA Dutch thing about putting *all* the decorations up on Christmas Eve, after the kids were asleep, so that on Christmas a.m., they’d wake up to a decorated tree and all manner of stuff that looked as if it had arrived by magic. My grandparents did this for a few years when my mother was a child (back in the late 1920s), but gave it up when they realized that staying up all night to decorate (including model trains under the tree, complete with village and tiny people) was *way* too much when you had a child, a big meal to prepare, lots of relatives coming and going, etc.

            So. That might be relevant, or it might be completely beside the point.

          • Thing is, this is my second closest neighbor:


            I live within spitting distance of the “Miracle on 34th Street” in Baltimore, which involves a city block, an untold quantity of Christmas lights, and a double dose of kitsch. Being so close to the miracle, we consider it mandatory to put up ample lights of our own, which happens to include seven smallish trees, a Bavarian star, and nutcrackers. Don’t worry though (cribbing from Dr. Fundystan’s notes), they’re only Advent Trees. 🙂

            It’s not quite penitential I admit, but it does make people happy, so I am creatively reinterpreting the entire exercise as advent-consistent community service.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            LCA. My father was from Bedford, Pennsylvania. We put the tree up and decorated it on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t a topic of discussion. It never occurred to me to question it, though I knew that some people had their tree up earlier. We did indulge in self-congratulation for the absence of dead needles on Christmas morning, and the general absence of being sick of it by then. Properly speaking the tree should come down on Twelfth Night, but we weren’t fanatical on that. The whole family decorated the three, but the parents put out the presents after we were in bed. This looks like a modified, and saner, version of what you describe.

            Based on the annual disagreement with my wife, I think there is a difference of tradition here. To us Germans the Christmas tree is an old tradition, long predating the spread of Christmas from being a religion holiday to what it is today. So to us the tree is a religious element, albeit non-Biblical and vaguely paganish, with a prominent place in the church. In the Anglo world the tree was introduced in the Victorian era and wasn’t really a general thing until the 20th century. This places it contemporaneously with Christmas as commercial extravaganza, and the two got conflated. The two uses coexist very uncomfortably, hence the grumpy-Lutheran stereotype (or at least contributing to the long list of other reasons for the stereotype).

          • In all fairness, I was being at least a little facetious; despite the fact that I revel in perpetuating the grumpy Lutheran stereotype (my students in the parish school call me the Grumpy Cat), my Christmas tree is actually already up, and we did so immediately after Thanksgiving. The reason for this is that 1. It is only the second time in 7 years of marriage that we have actually had one (the first being when we lived in Colorado and could pick our own). 2. We finally live in a place that has room for one. 3. We got one (fake tree, sorry) on sale last January, so as little as we paid for it, we are damn well gonna use it this year.

            The tree does absolutely nothing to impede our somber celebration of Advent, however. Lest you think for a moment I am joking about singing “Smitten, Stricken, and Aflicted” for Christmas, however, sing it to yourself in major key first. It sounds downright jolly! I think I’ll just sing the fourth verse, followed by a stanza of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” to that tune.

            Danielle, sorry to hear about your neighbors. I hope you can at least get some sleep this month.

            FWIW, I’m every bit as much a Christmas nazi as I am an Advent one. I will lead some caroling in public on January the 5th just to make a point. But our church sanctuary features a prominent, large Christmas tree that has gone up immediately after this first Sunday in Advent. We’re not exactly singing “Joy to the World” just yet, but the proximity of Saint Nicholas-ness sure sets the penitential-ness of this season apart from Lent.

          • It’s a Chanukkah bush!

  8. So, last year I posted “Merry Xmas!” on someone’s timeline on Facebook, and received an angry response from the parent of a kid who was formerly in a youth group of mine. She went on and on about how Christ died for me, and the very least I could do in response would be to have the courage to say His name; how the left is waging a war on Christmas; and how she hoped I still had Jesus in my heart.

    I felt a lot better about the whole thing after I responded with a voluminous private message regarding the origins of “X”mas, “Kreestos”, etc. One reason I was uncomfortable at the body where I had formerly served her and her children was leadership’s lack of regard for any church history prior to Luther…Actually, any church history prior to Billy Graham would probably be more accurate.

    A good friend of mine served 10 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you want to hear about a war on Christians, you ought to talk to him about some of the atrocities he witnessed against some of our Orthodox brethren. We should hang our heads in shame, repent, fast, and clothe ourselves with sackcloth and ashes for making a mountain out of such a molehill (“Xmas” or “Happy Holidays” vs. Christmas), and for forgetting the early Church.

  9. This whole argument makes me laugh in a way. We little mortals waging war on, whatever, Christmas, Truth, each other etc. We take ourselves WAY too seriously. I love the quote attributed to Augustine:

    “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”

  10. I’d like to share my insight into today’s topic – Ambiguity. At Christmas we purportedly celebrate Jesus’ birth but in reality it is His death that we rejoice in. The hands that delivered Him into this world would one day nail His body to a cross. Indeed, He was delivered (birthed) unto death for our sins.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      No, Trish, it isn’t. Not historically, and not today. During Advent and Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of the Word of God. There is an whole other holiday to rejoice in his death.

      • Not if you’re Lutheran. Out there, it’s Christmas Sunday, but in our churches, it’s Good Friday, every day. I think we will add a rousing rendition of “Smitten, Stricken, and Afflicted” to our Christmas Eve candlelight service.

      • Bonhoeffer gave some amazing Christmas sermons.

        In Eastern Orthodoxy, the significance of the incarnation is far clearer than it is in the west. But even western protestants typically don’t understand why Roman Catholics as an infant or child rather than merely after the resurrection.

        • …depict Jesus as an infant…

          • Christiane says

            it’s not just Catholics who celebrate the ‘infant’ Jesus . . . the Anglican clergyman and poet Malcolm Guite does a beautiful job of it in his writings for Advent season . . . take a look:

            “O Emmanuel
            O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
            O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
            O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
            Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
            Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
            O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
            Be folded with us into time and place,
            Unfold for us the mystery of grace
            And make a womb of all this wounded world.
            O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
            O tiny hope within our hopelessness
            Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
            To touch a dying world with new-made hands
            And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.”

            (Malcolm Guite)

            transcendently beautiful . . . the Incarnation, the Nativity . . . so much of meaning for all Christian people

          • That’s awesome, Christiane!

            We can’t forget that Jesus was the Son of God from birth; it wasn’t an achievement or a moment of enlightenment as an adult.

  11. Let me get this straight. Hobby Lobby, in the middle of summer, selling cheap plastic Christmas decor made in very non-Christian China constitutes a war on Christmas. Writing Christmas as Xmas constitutes a war on Chrustmas. Lining Bill O’Reilly’s pockets with huge amounts of money while he screams about how wrong everybody else is does not constitute a war on anything. People not bothering with church services on Christmas (one of our lowest attended services) does not constitute a war on Christmas. Churches not even having services on Christmas (so people can have “family time”) does not constitute a war on Christmas. Ignoring Easter pretty much altogether does not constitute a war on anyone’s faith practice.

    I’m more confused by American Christians than I was watching that dreadful Peter Pan live last night.

  12. Wish there was an edit button it should read “Hobby Lobby, in the middle of summer, selling cheap plastic Christmas decor made in very non-Christian China does NOT constitute a war on Christmas.”

    • For a moment there I thought you might be a Kiwi, i.e. from New Zealand – that’s how it would sound to other ears.

  13. I love this season. I drove through La Grange (a nearby burb) recently, and it was decked out in lights.. I had Itzhak Perlman on the radio doing a Mozart violin piece (WFMT, Chicago’s classical station) and it was just lovely, one of those moments where I just sigh and think life is good. It’s not the religious aspect of Christmas I like, it’s the festive decor and good nature it brings out in people.

    And I do usually use the word holidays if I don’t know how or if a given person is celebrating. It would be odd of me to wish my fellow Jews at the shul Merry Christmas, and it would be odd of me to wish my Christian neighbor Happy Chanukah. And odd to use either phrase in speaking to my Hindu friends who have already celebrated Diwali, but most of whom will celebrate the new year. My aunt will be celebrating solstice, and I have no idea what holidays are in the Buddhist calendar.

    • If Richard Gere in that one episode of the Simpsons is to be believed, Buddhists can celebrate whatever they feel like.

  14. That Other Jean says

    Sigh. Here it comes again—Franklin Graham and his ilk ginning up a war while many millions, probably billions, of people set about cheerfully celebrating Christmas, religious and secular alike, and millions more celebrate the holy days of other religions at this time of year. There is no war on Christmas, or any other holiday, except the one Graham and Co. are waging against everybody celebrating in ways they don’t like. It’s a pity that so many religious Christian folk turn so sour when they’re reminded that other people celebrate in other ways. That’s not exactly the Christmas spirit.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Well, Mobilization against The Devil’s Holiday(TM) ended November 1, so you have to keep the proles mobilized and marching somehow. If Oceania hasn’t always been at War with Eurasia, Eastasia will do.

    • Christiane says

      it would be impossible to see Franklin Graham as the Christian his father was . . . different generation, true, but that is not the only difference, no

  15. Some days I can’t help but just wonder if the best way to wage a war against the war on Christmas is to simply ignore it entirely, and celebrate Christmas with all you got!

    My Christmas priorities are church festivities and time with family. Most years, we don’t even buy any gifts at all. Sometimes we’ll just pool some cash to send a yak to a starving family in the third world somewhere. When we step back from the consumer driven holiday traditions, I find it surprisingly easy to tune out the war, and tune in the Word.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Just heard this on morning drive-time radio. Bad Craziness in Talahasee:

    Remember Talahasse, Florida, and their Nativity Scene brouhaha from last year?

    Remember “The Satanic Temple” and their bid for a Satanist Nativity Scene (to Freak the Mundanes)?
    Well, THEY’RE BACK.
    And this year they made it. So one of the Nativity scenes on the Florida State Capitol grounds will be children sitting at the feet of an enthroned Baphomet Goat. (Don’t know when Kenny gets killed in this episode, but it’s obvious how…)

    • That Other Jean says

      What, no Mithra being born from a rock? Pity that didn’t get in there–it was even supposed to have happened on December 25.

      Also, Satanists may not have much else going for them, but they do have a sense of humor.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        When this “Satanic Temple” surfaced out of nowhere last year, all indications were it was just a bunch of jokers jerking everyone’s chain with Satanic Panic shtick.

  17. Well, as counterpoint to the general sentiment here…

    Let’s not forget that the Christian reaction to the War on Christmas didn’t start in a void. It began when an obnoxious vocal minority (secular atheists) began complaining about and feeling offended by any and all displays of traditional Christian Christmas décor and merriment. Now, one could claim that consumerism had already begun tainting Christmas anyway, but in my mind it’s when the vocal minority demanded that Christ be taken out of Christmas that the true “watering down” and secularization of Christmas began.

    Perhaps Christians have over-reacted to the secular attack, but all I know is it’s disappointing to go to a school’s “Winter Seasonal” program (Don’t dare call it a Christmas program) and hear nothing but schmaltzy, cheesy “seasonal” songs that have no depth or meaning. Heck, I was in Starbucks the other day, perusing the Christmas albums on display, and had to laugh at one of them (I forget whose it was) in which there didn’t appear to be a single true Christmas song, just all empty, lame, songs about sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost nipping and snow coming down.

    So let’s not come down too hard on the folks who are reacting the secular draining of all depth and Christ flavor of the Christmas season. There might be some over-reaction, yes, but it’s understandable.

    Bottom line for me, however, gets back to one of my life verses I posted yesterday:
    “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV)

    If the secular world wants to remove Christ from the season, I can still serve and worship Him.

    • it’s when the vocal minority demanded that Christ be taken out of Christmas that the true “watering down” and secularization of Christmas began.

      Is the national culture “Christian”? Do Christians get veto power over which holidays everyone gets to celebrate, and how? If so, then the fighting the war against the “war on Christmas” is legitimate. If not, we should just get over ourselves and settle for quietly celebrating Advent amongst ourselves.

      • Statistics would suggest that a vast majority of the USA considers itself “Christian,” whether you or I believe that many are truly Christian or not. Most are not offended by displays of Christian Christmas stuff.

        Maybe you’re right, though. Maybe there’s been enough of a shift away from Americans truly living out a Christian faith that we should just let it go. But when people feel an injustice is being done, it’s difficult to persuade them otherwise, and it’s especially important not to tell people “just get over it.” Take the Ferguson protests, for example. There are people who felt a great injustice was done. For the people who believe justice WAS served to tell those who feel there was to “just get over it” doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t help discussion, doesn’t bring reconciliation or closure. It just exacerbates the problem.

        • Should read: “For the people who believe justice WAS served to tell those who feel otherwise to ‘just get over it’…”

    • Well, my particular grievance is against the “Christians” who tried to get Frosty and Rudolph (and Nestor–and no not because it makes small children cry but because it was not in the Bible) off the air in an attempt to keep the “true meaning’ (whatever that means) of Christmas.

      And now that same lot gets all prissy when Santa is slighted. Oh, irony, how much do I love thee?

      • For you, there’s Festivus! 😉

        • Bah! Everyday is an airing of the grievances!

          • And it’s then that I respond, if we want to get all picky and legalistic about it, the only thing that isn’t pagan in origin about the Christmas observance is Santa Claus, who arises by derivation from St. Nicholas, whose feast day was on December 6, and got connected with Christmas.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “…an obnoxious vocal minority (secular atheists) began complaining about and feeling offended by any and all displays of traditional Christian Christmas décor and merriment.”

      I have never met, nor even heard of such persons. Could you provide a cite? Many people complain about government endorsement of a particular religion, but surely we can agree that this isn’t the same thing.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      It began when an obnoxious vocal minority (secular atheists) began complaining about and feeling offended by any and all displays of traditional Christian Christmas décor and merriment.

      Yeah, folks can get really annoying when they start to notice that the culture in which they live explicitly favors one watered-down, mass-marketed faith tradition, and the icons, language, privileges, etc. that flow from that tradition create an environment that makes them feel excluded.

      Sorry, Rick Ro., but when I saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon, not the crappy Jim Carrey movie), I empathized more with the Grinch than the Whos. If someone’s alone on a mountain, grumbling about Christmas, it’s usually because someone put them outside of the group, either intentionally or through their obliviousness.

      • So you’re of the mindset, “I’d rather ruin other people’s fun if I’m not feeling it”…?

        • Marcus Johnson says

          If “ruining other people’s fun” means bumming everyone out by pointing out the kid on the playground who feels left out, sure, I’ll be that guy. Besides, plenty of people have found ways to be more inclusive with how they celebrate the holidays and have fun at the same time. “Fun” is pretty flexible that way.

          Besides, it’s much easier for me to defend Advent as a holy season, than on Christmas as a fun holiday.

          • Okay, I see your point, and it’s a good one.

            But that’s certainly not what’s going on in the case of people trying to remove traditional Christian Christmas décor and such. Or at least, I don’t see the connection. Bumming others out because one is bummed isn’t the same as bringing the bummed one into the merriment.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            I’ll certainly grant that there is a profound lack of grace with the way some folks go about attempting to change the dominant cultural trends surrounding Christmas. People can be jerks. Even worse, the focus of that discussion seems to be around what people should or shouldn’t do (political correctness) rather than on who we are and what we should become. That is one advantage of being a follower of Christ; that discussion can be framed in terms of higher aspirational goals, rather than a rulebook of do’s and don’ts.

            However, some of these curmudgeonly folks are legitimately the equivalent of the abused cat at the animal shelter who tries to bite you when you want to pet him. For those folks, I would tell you the same thing the animal shetler people told me: I know you think you’re being nice, but he sees your gestures as threats, so you need to change the way you approach him.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Ah, yes, How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A sad tale of a man of principle being suborned by the world around him to abandon those principles.

        • I do find the mass marketing of Grinch paraphernalia as Christmas stuff to be a bit ironic.

  18. ” I am interested in hearing what people might think about why I used that word.”

    (Insert Inigo Montoya meme here).

  19. Why should the secular world keep Christ in Christmas? We don’t live in a theocracy and if non-Christians don’t believe, then they have no reason to celebrate Christ. Why should Christmas even be a national holiday? It’s a religious holiday, and if we Christians want to continue to get the day off work, perhaps we should quit griping that the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate to our liking or we may find the holiday canceled altogether.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Well, if you take the Christ out of Christmas, that’s one less justification for dragging retail employees away from their families to work Black Friday. It’s also less of a reason for people to spend money that they don’t have on people they don’t really know or like, for presents they don’t want or need.

      Once you take out the “but it’s Jesus’ birthday” argument, then much of the holiday tradition becomes rather ridiculous.

      • That Other Jean says

        Well, it probably wasn’t Jesus’ actual birthday, which was more likely in March. But Jesus’ birthday deserves to be celebrated sometime by Christians; and March, when food stocks are at their lowest and people are struggling just to get by, isn’t really a good time. Why not when the people around you are celebrating something–Saturnalia, the birthday of Mithra, something about Osiris–since everybody deserves a winter holiday.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          I would argue that Jesus’ birthday doesn’t deserve to be celebrated as much it deserves to be remembered, and those are not inherently the same action.

          • That Other Jean says

            Eh, blame St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, for secretly tossing money for poor girls’ dowries in at their windows on Christmas Eve. Or maybe the Wise Men and their gifts. Anyway, we’re kind of stuck with the gift-giving, and watching kids open presents is fun. Besides, I’m inclined to think that the birth of a Divinity that redeemed mankind from death/sin/hell/whatever deserves a celebration–maybe not the crass commerce-fest we have at present, though.

      • What are the odds of Jesus having been born on Christmas?

        • 1 in 365, I suppose.

          • Faulty O-Ring says

            4 out of 365.25

            25 Dec Gregorian (Western / global date)
            6 Jan Gregorian (Armenian, = Epiphany)
            7 Jan Gregorian (= 25 Dec Julian, i.e. Old Calendarist)
            19 Jan (= 6 Jan Julian, i.e. Old Calendarist Armenian)

        • For an omnipotent God, nothing is impossible! 😉

        • maybe, but there’s that little annoying detail about the night Jesus was born, there were shepherds watching over their flocks by night, something they would never do in the dead of winter! It was more likely in the spring, in lambing season.

    • What? Cancel Christmas! Judging by the malls, 24×7 Christmas music radio channels, etc. I’d say Christmas is here to stay! Certainly as a cultural holiday if not a religious one.

  20. In Bulgaria, you get off work for “name day”. If your name is George, then you’re off work for the day of The Feast of St. George.

    You get to be off work if your profession has a patron saint, on the feast day for that saint. St. Nicholas is the patron saint for sailors, merchants, children, and virtually everyone else, so everyone gets to be off work for St. Nicholas’ Feast Day on Dec. 6.

    Everyone takes off the entire week of Holy Week, and goes to church every day. Now, many attend church that week somewhat inebriated…imagine that…Christians partying during Holy Week! What an idea!

    Everyone is off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but the gift giving happens at Epiphany, because, well, logically, it’s representative of the gifts of the Magi. And everyone’s off for Epiphany.

    So, Bulgaria might not have the highest per capita income for an EU country, but they figured out long ago that liturgical calendar use makes sense, if you want a day off every once in a while.

    Frankly, it pisses me off when someone complains about having a paid holiday from work. I’ll take a paid vacation during Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage during that time to a holy Christian place. Or, just go to the beach with my family. Just take the paid holiday and stop whining, for X’s sake! Have an anxiously expectant and hopeful Advent, everyone!

    • Faulty O-Ring says

      What about people who weren’t named for a saint? People with Japanese names, for instance…?

  21. Cermak loved Christmas.
    The whole Christmas season.
    O please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason.
    It could be her head wasn’t screwed on quite right
    It could be her shoes were a little too tight
    But I think the most likely reason of all
    May have been her love of schmaltz in the mall.

    The lights, the sounds, the smells,
    The carols the bells, O! The bells, bells, bells, bells…

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    And now an appropriate little momento from classic Dr Demento:

  23. Ambiguity. Hmmm. In my opinion, ambiguity occurs when symbols are hijacked for other meaning and purposes, be it political, economical, personal, etc. Even a picture of Jesus on the cross can be used to represent a cause or agenda unrelated to atonement, redemption. Liberals and conservatives are equally guilty. There will always be neutral cultural influences on the meaning of religious symbols, which is not necessarily bad. How we treat symbols betrays what we hold as “ultimate”.

  24. I love all the lights and decorations and the religious songs and even some of the secular songs (although when I was a very-literal-minded kid, and heard “Up on the housetop reindeer pause…”, I always wanted to correct the song’s author because everyone knows reindeer don’t have paws.)

    I think most people who snarl as the consumerism of Christmas don’t have kids young enough to enjoy it (except you, Richard, I guess). Seeing the joy of young children on Christmas is a very fine thing, and I doubt that Our Lord would begrudge it. IIRC, He seemed to enjoy hanging around with people who were having a good time, and sort of rolling His eyes at people who tried to quench a good party. (“John came not eating or drinking and you said, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, “A glutton and a drunkard!”)

    The more lights and festivities, the better, during this literally darkest time of the year. Of course this is why Christmas was plunked down in December by the early Church, and I say good for them. Everyone needs a break from the gloom, and putting up tons of lights in brave human defiance of the darkness makes excellent sense whether you’re a Christian or a caveman!


    • And we must remember when we complain too much, the admonition Linus gave Charlie Brown: “Charlie Brown! You are the only one I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem! Lucy was right about you. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest!”

  25. As someone who has never much gotten off on Christmas, you all are most convincing and I appreciate the opportunity to party with you. This is not the time and place, but I wish you could do the same for me for Advent. This year is the first time I have really paid attention to it, and in spite of several good postings here I still don’t quite grasp what is going on.

    Yes, I get the buildup to the birth of Messiah Jesus, but there is a parallel track that concerns what the Church has come to call the Second Coming. As sometime lector I have had to read some very dark and despairing and angry and threatening passages of Scripture for Advent and it strikes me as ambiquitous, if you will, with the Christmas Spirit as laid out so well here today. Perhaps sometime in the remaining weeks this might be addressed.

    • Charles,

      The hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is my favorite Advent meditation. When carefully read, it covers all aspects of Jesus’ coming: Advent, the Eucharist, and the Second Coming. I find great comfort in its conflation of time and its reminder that in God’s eternity, everything has been fulfilled and we, through the mystery of the sacraments, can experience a taste of that fulfillment even while we wait.

      • When I was in Jr High, I and a couple other Catholic youth helped the Episcopalians in my town with their folk masses, and the setting of Let All Mortal Flesh from hymnal of 1940 was lovingly and reverently sung with guitar accompaniment. From then on, it was part of my internal Christian soundscape.

        IIRC, it is part of the oldest complete Eucharistic liturgy we have, that of St James. It is sung in place of the Cherubic Hymn in the Orthodox vesperal liturgy of Holy Saturday, offered on the evening of Good/Holy Friday. I can’t sing it through without weeping, even though there is a very strong resurrectional undercurrent already present in this service. Here is the translation we use:

        Let all mortal flesh keep silent and in fear and trembling stand, pondering nothing earthly-minded. For the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords comes to be slain, to give himself as food to the faithful.

        Before him go the ranks of angels: all the principalities and powers, the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces, singing the hymn: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

        Thanks for the reminder, Damaris. Pascha is ultimately the center of every feast.


  26. I used to live in an area of New Jersey that was home to many Jewish people. There were synagogues all over the place, Orthodox, Hasidic; it would have been presumptuous for me to wish strangers Merry Christmas, so I used the more generic and inclusive Happy Holidays.

    Now I live in the Pennsylvanian Bible belt, Lancaster County. But I still use Happy Holidays when greeting people whose religious affiliation, or lack thereof, I don’t know. It would be wrong for me to assume that the default religious setting for strangers is Christianity; it’s just not true. How could it possibly be a benediction to wish a Jewish person a merry Christmas?

    If Happy Holidays was good enough for Bing Crosby, it’s good enough for me.

  27. I agree with ox, who found words to put to my jumbled thoughts.

    On the date of Jesus’ birth, see this, from a source that is hardly a bastion in the culture wars:

    I understand that the consensus among scholars is that a practice has already existed for some amount of time before it is described in a written record. So people were thinking about a date for Jesus’s birth before it became any kind of official thing. Some historians think that the Roman feast of Sol Invictus was established to try to lead Christians away from their practice of (already) marking the birth of Jesus, rather than the other way around. As for the shepherds in the fields, sheep still have to be looked after at night all throughout the year, whether they are spread out on the hills or in a corral. In details such as this, “plausible” is good enough for me.

    Easter was always the “biggest deal” for Christians, and remains so in EO, though our Advent is 40 days as well; it is viewed as a “little Lent” – fasting is not as rigorous. The longer I am Orthodox, the more I see that the actual climax of this period is not Christmas but Epiphany, which for us is not about the Magi (we put them together in the same icon with the shepherds, showing them “on the road” following the star, and understanding that they in fact arrived on the scene later). Epiphany is about *** the ramifications of the Incarnation ***, as shown forth in the Baptism of Christ, and with it the first explicit revelation of God as Trinity. It is a feast shot through with light, in which water and its meaning are prominent, and also has reverberations of Pascha, esp in the iconography and its cosmic aspect.