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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Advent thought 7: Take Christ out of Christmas

I have half a mind to start a new campaign to "Take Christ out of Christmas."

Let me explain. For the majority of people in Britain Christmas is a time for families to get together, exchange presents, eat good food, watch TV (, and argue).

I have nothing against this.
I like presents.
I like good food.
I like worthwhile TV.
I like families.
(but which is best? There's only one way to find out ... [that parochial allusion will make no sense ot Americans])

But this is not Christmas. It is a secular Winter Festival. So here is my inclination - Let's take the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas' and call it for what it is - Wintermas.

The countdown to Wintermas is not Advent but something else - let's call it Mad-Spent (as everyone went mad and spent lots of money that they did not have).

Now the common Christian reaction to this is to chastise the world and to call it to "Put Christ back in Christmas". But I have two problems with this:

1. I don't see why non-Christians should be expected to celebrate a Christian festival. Why should they? And why should we get irritated if they do not? (And let's be honest - Christmas was a pagan Winter festival before we borrowed it anyway)

2. I think that the sober reality is that even if the population in general did put Christ back in Christmas it would be as no more than a bolt-on to the real focus of interest - Wintermas. It is not obvious to me that this is a desirable state of affairs.

So perhaps we need to try a different strategy. Perhaps we need to put some clear blue water between Advent and Mad-Spent and between Christmas and Wintermas.

Perhaps we need to accept that the British public at large are not Christians and are not going to be celebrating Christmas. So perhaps we should let Britain have its Wintermas and our focus needs to be on helping the Church to do Advent and Christmas well - to reclaim them, as it where.

Now that is a challenge because most Christians I know - myself included - are much more devoted to celebrating Wintermas than we are to celebrating Christmas. So if we want to put Christ back in Christmas then let's start by setting our own house in order!

12 comments:

Richard said...

Actually I had the same idea last year and set up a facebook group!

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=32719766972

steph said...

Na leave it as it is. I've never been a believer of any sort so I'm not a Christian, but even if there were no Christians left at all, it's still an old historical tradition and is significant for that. We remember other days by their traditional names according to other religious traditions so why not Christmas too? Unless of course you're suggesting that Christians mind others celebrating their day in a non Christian way.

David Reimer said...

What an intriguing suggestion! You've nailed the problem ... but what's the solution? Consider these words from the noted theologian, Randy Stonehill:

But most of all the children they're the ones I hope will learn / That Jesus is our Saviour and He's going to return. / And Christmas isn't just a day / And all days aren't the same / Perhaps they'll think about the word and see it spells His name.

(Full context here.)

Also, I recall there is at least one essay, possibly two?, on this theme in the C.S. Lewis essay collection, God in the Dock. But I don't have it to hand at the moment to see what he was arguing there.

Craig Gardiner said...

Or as we were discussing hte other night we could put Christ into the whole of Christmas and not just one day like everybody else by taking it seriously as a community festival of the incarnation that lasts twelve days.

Eric Gregory said...

Thought you might want to take a look at another Blogger (Some kind of Christian) and his take on the same idea: http://somekindofchristian.blogspot.com/2009/12/have-yourself-very-civic-christmas.html

changingworship said...

Man I wish I wrote that.

Dave Scott said...

Chances are that the Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles* ... so why not shift to an September/October celebration?




*can be deduced from the Gospels

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Wintermass is necessary (not least because of the 'mass') as people still commonly refer to it as Yule or Yule-tide without any pagan connotations.

Refreshing writing. Thanks.

carlosk said...

In 1973, I composed an evening length ballet named, WINTERMAS, for my company, Carlos Carvajal's Dance Spectrum of San Francisco. It was based upon the Pagan and Christian celebrations of Mid Winter and connected the Kachina, Soyal, to the Fool of the Mummers plays and dances of England. It was based upon research and became an alternative to the ubiquitous Nutcracker ballets of the season. It became a San Francisco favorite. I invented the word, Wintermas, at that time, but it was also based upon the term "mas"or celebration which is universally available.

Carlos Carvajal, choreographer

mewmewmew said...

Na leave it as it is. I've never been a believer of any sort so I'm not a Christian, but even if there were no Christians left at all, it's still an old historical tradition and is significant for that. We remember other days by their traditional names according to other religious traditions so why not Christmas too? Unless of course you're suggesting that Christians mind others celebrating their day in a non Christian way.



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jj said...

I like the idea of wintermas.After all not everyone is is into the religious aspect of Christmas

Neon said...

A winter festival would be a great Idea and maybe in addition to xmas!!!