A Very Not-So-Merry Christmas: How Protestantism Nearly Killed St. Nick

Relics and indulgences weren’t the only casualties of the Reformation. So was Christmas. Christmas was an important feast and saint day in the centuries leading up to the Reformation. Its saint, Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in the early fourth century, loomed large in the Middle Age imagination. In fact, according to Gerry Bowler, Nicholas [Read More…]

Because Xmas really is Xpian…

This is from my Anxious Bench archives. I originally posted it December 2, 2015. But it seems still relevant and useful, so enjoy it for Xmas 2016 too. I literally stumbled across St. Bride’s church in London this summer. Walking down Fleet Street toward St. Paul’s Cathedral, I was considering eating at Ye Olde Chesire [Read More…]

Dispelling Darkness: A Christian Paradox

Tis the season. Christmas music is everywhere. I’m not a complete Grinch when it comes to Christmas music, but really… “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”? So much wrong with this… I do sing Rudolf and Frosty with my kids, and I actually enjoy listening to my daughter pound out carol after carol from her beginning piano [Read More…]

The Peace of Christmas during the Pain of Life

In the far west of England, almost to Wales,  the medieval spire of St. Alkmund’s parish church reaches high above the old city of Shrewsbury. One “vane” of A.E. Housman’s immortal line: “High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam islanded in Severn stream.” Although a modern town of 72,000, Shrewsbury still looks very medieval. More than [Read More…]

Bringing the Spirit of (Medieval) Santa Back to Christmas

Every Christmas in the yard of a house not far from us stands a manger scene. The Christ Child rocks gently in his small white wooden manger; his halo glowing from the spotlight. Instead of Mary and Joseph gazing at their holy infant, or even angels surrounding the yard with praise, an unlikely figure stands next [Read More…]

Christmas, Augustine, and the Fornication of Demons

Nothing conjures up good Christmas cheer like St. Augustine. Consider this line from his Sermon 191 (out of an estimated 8,000 in his lifetime) delivered on Christmas Day: “He likewise made His Church a virgin by ransoming her from the fornication of demons.” This quote appears in an Augustinian meditation on the miracle of the [Read More…]

Christmas in 1776

From the Patheos archive: ‘Tis the season to argue about religion. Or more specifically, to feud about whether to say Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings…to call it a Christmas Village or a Holiday Village…or to allow a crèche or menorah to stand on public property. What would Americans at the time of our nation’s founding [Read More…]

The Christmas Truce and the Meaning of Peace in “No Man’s Land”

I’m pleased to feature a guest post from Bradley Strait, a senior history major at Asbury University. This is based in part on a paper he wrote for the class “Seminar on War, Peace, and Faith.” *** One hundred-years ago, almost to the day, in 1914, a Christmas story emerged out of the trenches. As [Read More…]

A Martin Luther Christmas

On the afternoon of December 25, 1530, Martin Luther preached a Christmas sermon. In the context of a still-chaotic Reformation, a combative Martin Luther railed against “papists,” “Junkers,” and “Turks” as he proclaimed the “joyful news” that the Christ child was the Lord and Savior. Luther was clearly embattled. In the wake of the 1529 [Read More…]

Was Christmas in Revolutionary America a Drunken Bash?

Our modern American Christmas is an anxious affair—and not just because of “those” relatives you don’t want to see. We so constantly remind ourselves to focus on Christ during Christmas that “The reason for the season” has become an American Christian mantra. In light of our annual December anxiety, I find it strangely comforting that [Read More…]