On Christmas

The following is from C.S. Lewis.  As you read it, you get the feeling that he’s just about had enough of the who commercial Christmas thing, and is rather annoyed by his own personal Mrs. Busy and her unwelcomed and unlooked for gifts.  Perhaps this will give you the courage to celebrate differently this year.

Christmas Cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called “Xmas” are one of my pet abominations; I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled.  Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, and evil; but the labored and organized jollity of this – the spurious childlikeness – the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep up some superficial connection with the Nativity – are disgusting.

Three things go by the name of Christmas.  One is a religious festival.  This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here.  The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merrymaking and hospitality.  If it were my business to have a “view” on this, I should say that I much approve of merrymaking.  But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business.  I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends.  It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs.  But the third things called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

I mean of course the commercial racket.  The interchange of presents is a very small ingredient in the older english festivity.  Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children.  But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it.  I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure.  You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to “keep” it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the things is a nightmare.  Long before December 25th everyone is worn out – physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them.  They are in no trim for merrymaking; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act.  They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary.  The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own.  It is almost a blackmail.  Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself – gaudy and useless gadgets, “novelties” because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before.  Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance.  For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labor of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade.  It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things.  I don’t know the way out.  But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers?  If the worst comes to worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as charity.  For nothing?  Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

Lewis, C.S. The Joyful Christian, 127 Readings. (Nashville; Broadman & Holman Pub., 1977). Page 203.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord…

“He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord…’”
(John 1:23 ESV)

Advent is upon us once again, for better or worse.  This is, I admit, my favorite time of year; but it seems to get harder and harder to enjoy.

Have you noticed the advertising on TV lately: “Now is the time to buy this new car…”  “The perfect gift for the guy who has everything…”  “Don’t miss our holiday sale…”  “Doors open at 4 a.m. …”  One would think that Advent is nothing more than a marketing season, one last ditch effort to boost the profits for retailers.  I’m all for a strong and robust economy, but is this really what Advent is all about – a reminder that we only have so many shopping days left until Christmas?

Here in the Church Advent is our countdown to Christmas.  We light candles each week signifying the coming of the light of Christ.  We decorate the church with greens and purples, with nativities and chrismons; we sing the classic carols that draw us into the “Christmas Spirit.”  Advent is our time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, the mystery of His incarnation, and God’s gracious gift of our Savior.  But, I ask again, is this really what Advent is all about?

Advent means “coming”, and as such it is appropriate that we use this time to celebrate the coming of the Christ child; but there is more to Advent, there is more to our faith than the birth of a child.  Our Lord promised His disciples, promised us, that He would come again to take us to be with Him.  Many Christians don’t talk about this promise openly because it has been the source of so much speculation and fantasy that we really don’t know what we believe. 

The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again, in a very personal and powerful way.  His coming will not be missed, as He will be joined by clouds of glory and a heavenly fanfare (1 Thess 4:13-5:11).  At His coming, the faithful in Christ will experience a rapture – we will be taken up in the air to meet Christ as He comes.  We will not be whisked away in secret, but will meet Christ in the air as He returns and take part in His triumphal return.

Advent is our time to focus on the return of Christ.  As Christians, we should always be vigilant in our watching and waiting for Christ’s coming.  Though we do not know when this will be, we are to be prepared.  May your Advent prepare you for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and may you also be filled with anticipation and expectation of His return.