It’s Started: The Christmas Onslaught (Tripp Hudgins)

It’s Started: The Christmas Onslaught (Tripp Hudgins) November 13, 2013

Welcome to Tripp Hudgins, another guest blogger while I’m away. Tripp Hudgins is a PhD student at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; a preaching pastor, Baptist cantor, liturgiologist, ecumenist, writer of articles, ethnomusicologist (hon.), and grateful husband. His work is an exploration of sonic theology, mandodoxy, found objects (such as grace, time, timbre, or other holy scrap), and some good old fashioned sangin’. He blogs at

It’s started.

I was following the Twitter feed for the conversation between Nadia Bolz-Weber and Amy Butler at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC (#nadiaandamy) about the present realities and possible futures of Christianity in the United States and it happened. I was happily dividing my cognitive attentions between Twitter and the television when it happened.

There was a Christmas ad. #nadiaandamy

Some big box store has a swanky little ad running on Hulu. I cried in outrage and immediately tweeted to the #nadiaandamy thread that Nadia and Amy need to do something about this crime against, I don’t know, crime against something. Humanity? The Church? Rebroadcasts of my favorite television show? The ether, however, ignored me. One person retweeted my tweet and another favorited it, but that’s all.

It is upon us. The decorations are up and the sales are on. The adverts are broadcasted across the airwaves and midst bandwith. It is what it is and nothing can change it, not even Nadia and Amy.

The posts have started as well. You know the ones. “The War Against Christmas” is such a common trope now. Politicians are in on it. Pastors are in on it. We’re all in on it.

My spouse and I have already had the first of what will likely be many conversations about the problem of saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”

It’s started.

You’re doing it wrong! #nadiaandamy

And it’s tempting right now to pen some screed on Christian’s blog about the evils of too much/not enough Christmas/Advent/Holiday something. As a liturgical scholar I feel some kind of strange obligation to point out to us when we’re “doing it wrong.” I’ve been informed that is what liturgical scholarship is all about. “Hey! You’re doing [particular liturgical event] wrong!”

But isn’t that kind of what’s getting me all worked up in the first place? Are “we” doing it wrong and who is this “we” anyway? Truth is that Christians haven’t agreed on how or when to celebrate the nativity of The Christ for more than a thousand years. Do we really expect the local big box store ad to reflect some kind of theological consensus about the holiday and how we are all to honor it? Really? Is that what big box stores are for? Also, and this my freak a few of us Christians out, but have we noticed that we really aren’t in control of our own holidays?

Rankin Bass, Hallmark, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” or better yet “Santa Lost A Ho” (I kid you not). “Ho! Ho! [rest] Where’d the other ho go? I don’t know!” We can look back over the centuries and track the diversity of ways of celebrating Christmas conflated with entertaining ourselves this time of year and how little of it ever had anything to with Jesus or being Christ in the world. “The Wren”, anyone?

So, now what? #nadiaandamy 

Well, maybe we just need to be a little humble and have a sense of humor. Maybe I need to check my own liturgical righteousness at the door when that ad comes on television.

Because, like the coming of Christ, it’s started. It’s upon us, this adventus, this eschatological reality that we Christians proclaim. Of course the message is going to get pushed around and appropriated for all manner of self-serving reasons. But the celebration, the season, is alive. It is, like the God we love and serve, alive and beyond our control.

The celebration does not belong to us. It never has.

Christ does not belong to us. He never has.

So, my friends, say it with me:

“It’s started.”

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  • Gail

    “maybe we just need to be a little humble and have a sense of humor.
    Maybe I need to check my own liturgical righteousness at the door when
    that ad comes on television.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Can we check the liturgical righteousness concerning the “cardinal sin” of Christmas songs during Advent too? Yeah, yeah, I know all the reasons for it. Whatever.
    And you can wish me Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Peace, Happy New Year….whatever good thoughts you care to share. I’ll take ’em.

    Thx for the posting.

    • I’m a pretty firm proponent of Advent and Christmas as separate seasons in the life of my congregation. I simply think that I’m doing myself spiritual harm when I get bent out of shape about Big Box Mega Store. That’s all.

      • Gail

        Ah, that’s the thing about writing. You have no control over where your initial proposition takes your readers. I think what rang true for me was the “check my own liturgical righteousness at the door,” no matter what the issue being discussed is. And I have to check my own nonliturgical righteousness at the door too, I guess.

  • Mich Barry


  • marthooo

    I have so many mixed feelings about all of this, when I stop to think about it, but mainly I let it slide. (I’m not talking about the commercialism and consumerism, that would prompt a different note from me about our desperation, and it is an all year thing.)

    I remember bumping into Santa and fingering decorations in Maas Bros. Dept. Store when I was five years old, but I also remember the smells of the greens in the church on Christmas Eve from back then. Hmm, more, I remember caroling in the back of a pick up truck, smells (again) of hay, and listening to Jeff, who was probably nine years old (and beautiful), singing Silent Night in German.

    And, Tripp—I was sure I didn’t know what he was singing, but it was crystalline, pure boy soprano, and…it seared my kindergarten soul. It was one of those moments you analyze in your current work. I fell in love with EVERYTHING bigger than I at that moment. And, these years later, I remember my dad’s getting choked up listening to Jeff…my dad, the priest, and “Daddy” to me, who had been sitting in a German POW Camp some 25 or so years before. But I digress, sort of.

    All of these memories seem related, but not related, and in some way, still fit nicely into jellos for me–they merge and shift.

    So, the Church appropriated some winter festivals–I’m ok with that. I’m already excited about and designing a 9′ diameter wreath to hang on the front of our house, but that feels like winter nesting. Maybe I’ll think about the Advent Quiet Day I’m leading with Hilary B. Smith while I’m weaving magnolia leaves and junipers, but maybe I won’t. I’m not too worried about it. Winter nesting/preparing places in our hearts—-it all merges, but doesn’t. But maybe I’m just lazy.