In defense of Christmas “materialism”

[It's still Christmas. . . .]

I keep reading articles and posts complaining about Christmas being too materialistic, criticizing all of the shopping and gift-giving.  Many Christians are indignant that non-believers have the presumption to celebrate our holiday.  Some are saying that we should just have two separate holidays, a spiritual one for Christians marking Christ’s birth and a materialistic Winter holiday for everyone else.

I reject that!  I take the highest satisfaction when non-believers glorify Christ, even against their knowledge or their will, by celebrating His birthday.  They give gifts, which are the sign of the Gospel.  They force themselves to be benevolent.

The so-called commercialization of Christmas does great good, helping the economy considerably (this was apparently a very good year this season) and bringing happiness to millions of children and grownups alike.  People may not fully realize what it means to give and receive gifts, but that gives Christians an opportunity to explain.  God’s grace is a gift. Salvation is a gift, not something you have to earn.  Christ is the gift.  Usually, the person who has the birthday gets the gift.  But on Jesus’s birthday everybody gets a gift.  Because He is the gift.

My fellow Christians, we don’t need to Christianize everything.  Everything is already Christianized!   Christ already reigns.  The secular world itself unwittingly testifies to Him.

That atheists, secularists, followers of other religions, and others not in the fold celebrate Christmas is a profoundly good thing.  It is powerful evidence for the validity of Christianity.

Let’s not separate the spiritual and the material  out of an excess of piety or hyper-spirituality.  That’s the way of Gnosticism.  The very meaning of Christmas is about the spiritual and the material coming together.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    Ooo! I see possibilities for a new Veith book about Christmas and culture. One chapter could be about “Scroogonomics.” ;-)

  • Tom Hering

    Ooo! I see possibilities for a new Veith book about Christmas and culture. One chapter could be about “Scroogonomics.” ;-)

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  • Stephen

    As a famously poor sport at Christmastime, I suppose in one sense you are right – it will take whole lot of doing to knock Christmas out of our culture (never happen), and December 25 will always be called that no matter how “secular” it gets. In, with and under perhaps, in with and under.

  • Stephen

    As a famously poor sport at Christmastime, I suppose in one sense you are right – it will take whole lot of doing to knock Christmas out of our culture (never happen), and December 25 will always be called that no matter how “secular” it gets. In, with and under perhaps, in with and under.

  • Porcell

    According to the scholar, Arthur Brooks, American are among the most gift-giving, generous people in the world. We are for all our faults, also, among the most Christian ones. There is a connection between the two.

    A pox on the gnostic spiritual purists

  • Porcell

    According to the scholar, Arthur Brooks, American are among the most gift-giving, generous people in the world. We are for all our faults, also, among the most Christian ones. There is a connection between the two.

    A pox on the gnostic spiritual purists

  • SM

    Rather than characterize our complaints about the secularization of Christmas as an argument against “materialism”, it might be more accurate to speak of a critique of “consumerism”. Framed that way, I see the criticism as prophetic rather than gnostic.

  • SM

    Rather than characterize our complaints about the secularization of Christmas as an argument against “materialism”, it might be more accurate to speak of a critique of “consumerism”. Framed that way, I see the criticism as prophetic rather than gnostic.

  • Rawhider

    Happy thoughts and Pixie Dust,but not so much about guilt ,disappointment ,borrowing to buy that which one cannot afford ,I think maybe the sharing of a meal with someone who would not have it otherwise or giving of something you personally have to someone who would appreciate it would be more in keeping with the “Spirit” then a mad clamor for a bunch of plastic junk soon forgotten.

  • Rawhider

    Happy thoughts and Pixie Dust,but not so much about guilt ,disappointment ,borrowing to buy that which one cannot afford ,I think maybe the sharing of a meal with someone who would not have it otherwise or giving of something you personally have to someone who would appreciate it would be more in keeping with the “Spirit” then a mad clamor for a bunch of plastic junk soon forgotten.

  • John C

    No, no, no, Poorcell. Australians are far more generous than Americans ( according to some poll, conducted somewhere by somebody)

  • John C

    No, no, no, Poorcell. Australians are far more generous than Americans ( according to some poll, conducted somewhere by somebody)

  • Booklover

    I love this post!!

    I do not get into the gift-buying mode or decorating mode like some do, but I enjoy the efforts of others and I believe we all have a choice of how much we want to partake in that end of it.

    The thing I LOVE about the Christmas season is the music. The gospel is presented in so many carols, even, or especially, in “secular” venues. The music I get to play for public school choirs is gorgeous, exploding with gospel themes. Some churches don’t even have this great music; but at Christmastime, there it is in many of our schools, malls, and concert halls.

    A thousand “Amens” to the following paragraph, and a pox on those who try to rip Christmas from the clutches of “those people.” Christ was constantly reaching out to “those people.”

    “My fellow Christians, we don’t need to Christianize everything. Everything is already Christianized! Christ already reigns. The secular world itself unwittingly testifies to Him.”

  • Booklover

    I love this post!!

    I do not get into the gift-buying mode or decorating mode like some do, but I enjoy the efforts of others and I believe we all have a choice of how much we want to partake in that end of it.

    The thing I LOVE about the Christmas season is the music. The gospel is presented in so many carols, even, or especially, in “secular” venues. The music I get to play for public school choirs is gorgeous, exploding with gospel themes. Some churches don’t even have this great music; but at Christmastime, there it is in many of our schools, malls, and concert halls.

    A thousand “Amens” to the following paragraph, and a pox on those who try to rip Christmas from the clutches of “those people.” Christ was constantly reaching out to “those people.”

    “My fellow Christians, we don’t need to Christianize everything. Everything is already Christianized! Christ already reigns. The secular world itself unwittingly testifies to Him.”

  • Ryan

    There is some valid critique, the so called grain of truth, in decrying the focus on getting rather than the Giver. I wonder though if some, just some mind you, of this anti-materialism among Christians is not gnosticism but an anti-Sacramental viewpoint showing? That is, blessings can’t come through the created, only alongside it – in a way a subtle denial of the very incarnation we are celebrating.

  • Ryan

    There is some valid critique, the so called grain of truth, in decrying the focus on getting rather than the Giver. I wonder though if some, just some mind you, of this anti-materialism among Christians is not gnosticism but an anti-Sacramental viewpoint showing? That is, blessings can’t come through the created, only alongside it – in a way a subtle denial of the very incarnation we are celebrating.

  • http://barrybishop.blogspot.com/ Barry D. Bishop

    Isn’t the problem with excess and not materialism?
    I mean, I am not against food, but I am trying not to be a glutton nor encourage others to be.
    I agree that Christmas is a wonderful time to give gifts. However, I have 3 kids. We beg our families not to give them too many toys. If each kid gets 5 toys a piece (from Mom, Dad, Grandparents, etc) that’s 15 new toys in the house. We can barely walk thru the living room as it is because of all the toys. Then we worry about what we are teaching our kids about Christmas as Christian parents. We read the Bible to them, sing carols, and even teach about the real St. Nicholaus but I fear this is all overshadowed by the toys.

  • http://barrybishop.blogspot.com/ Barry D. Bishop

    Isn’t the problem with excess and not materialism?
    I mean, I am not against food, but I am trying not to be a glutton nor encourage others to be.
    I agree that Christmas is a wonderful time to give gifts. However, I have 3 kids. We beg our families not to give them too many toys. If each kid gets 5 toys a piece (from Mom, Dad, Grandparents, etc) that’s 15 new toys in the house. We can barely walk thru the living room as it is because of all the toys. Then we worry about what we are teaching our kids about Christmas as Christian parents. We read the Bible to them, sing carols, and even teach about the real St. Nicholaus but I fear this is all overshadowed by the toys.

  • Jerry

    Our kids are grown–we can’t move thru the living room because of all the books and DVDs. It took two of us five minutes to find the TV remote.

  • Jerry

    Our kids are grown–we can’t move thru the living room because of all the books and DVDs. It took two of us five minutes to find the TV remote.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I get what you are saying, but I disagree with your statement that the holiday materialism is good for the economy. The pedantic and (frankly) moronic metric used by the media outlets typically represent dollars spent. More spending is considered better. I will refrain from witty sarcasms targeting our U.S. Senate. Also, having supervised distribution for the world’s largest retailer during many holiday seasons, I can tell you that this imbalanced materialism comes at great cost, not always measurable in $$.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I get what you are saying, but I disagree with your statement that the holiday materialism is good for the economy. The pedantic and (frankly) moronic metric used by the media outlets typically represent dollars spent. More spending is considered better. I will refrain from witty sarcasms targeting our U.S. Senate. Also, having supervised distribution for the world’s largest retailer during many holiday seasons, I can tell you that this imbalanced materialism comes at great cost, not always measurable in $$.

  • helen

    In my childhood the extended family who expected to have Christmas dinner together drew names on Thanksgiving for the giving of one modest Christmas gift. (Money wasn’t so plentiful.)
    My grandparents (one set living) had 17 grandchildren; our gift was usually Child’s Christmas Chimes or some other small book from the church publishing house.

    I don’t watch TV much but looked for Christmas music this year.
    The most appalling ad I saw was an invitation to borrow money on your car title to spend more for Christmas!
    “And you would get to keep the car!” was the pitch.

    That is too much!

  • helen

    In my childhood the extended family who expected to have Christmas dinner together drew names on Thanksgiving for the giving of one modest Christmas gift. (Money wasn’t so plentiful.)
    My grandparents (one set living) had 17 grandchildren; our gift was usually Child’s Christmas Chimes or some other small book from the church publishing house.

    I don’t watch TV much but looked for Christmas music this year.
    The most appalling ad I saw was an invitation to borrow money on your car title to spend more for Christmas!
    “And you would get to keep the car!” was the pitch.

    That is too much!

  • Gulliver

    I don’t preach against materialism per se, but against greed, worry, and not focusing our worship and faith on the Christ-child, who is the ultimate Giver. It is still fashionable for secular artists to sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” which has a very powerful Christ-centered message. Also, the Christmas message can be given through light displays, Christmas cards and letters, caroling, and many other activities that point to Jesus, born to be the Savior of the world.

  • Gulliver

    I don’t preach against materialism per se, but against greed, worry, and not focusing our worship and faith on the Christ-child, who is the ultimate Giver. It is still fashionable for secular artists to sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” which has a very powerful Christ-centered message. Also, the Christmas message can be given through light displays, Christmas cards and letters, caroling, and many other activities that point to Jesus, born to be the Savior of the world.

  • garka

    There seems to be some good tension in this conversation. When we step back and look at it we can see that creating two holidays wouldn’t be a good option and that God has alot he can do through His bride to share the Gosple we celebrate!

  • garka

    There seems to be some good tension in this conversation. When we step back and look at it we can see that creating two holidays wouldn’t be a good option and that God has alot he can do through His bride to share the Gosple we celebrate!

  • Porcell

    Mr. Bishop: Isn’t the problem with excess and not materialism?

    Actually, Veith correctly points out that the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas, according to one’s means, reflects the fundamental point that Christ, the precious gift of God, is in part celebrated during the Christmas time with the giving of gifts, something that the Magi quite understood.

    Most of us enjoy both giving and receiving gifts, notwithstanding the moralistic criticism of purist, gnostic critics. The tradition of gift-giving is rather well founded and to be richly enjoyed. That this contributes to the general economy and helps to create employment is far from a trivial thing.

  • Porcell

    Mr. Bishop: Isn’t the problem with excess and not materialism?

    Actually, Veith correctly points out that the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas, according to one’s means, reflects the fundamental point that Christ, the precious gift of God, is in part celebrated during the Christmas time with the giving of gifts, something that the Magi quite understood.

    Most of us enjoy both giving and receiving gifts, notwithstanding the moralistic criticism of purist, gnostic critics. The tradition of gift-giving is rather well founded and to be richly enjoyed. That this contributes to the general economy and helps to create employment is far from a trivial thing.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    porcell @ 3

    I understand what you mean, but better..

    “The Peace of Christ on all the gnostic spiritual purists, and … conservative republicans, and liberal democrats, and the hot wiccan lipstick lesbian couple next door, and the hindu and muslim immigrants down the street and the neo nazis and the homosexuals and the legalistic lutherans or presybyterians or ucc members or … the libertine ELCA and bishop spong and those who say god is dead, and well. everybody!

    hollow plastic nativity scene lawn ornaments? bring em on! christmas music saying Jesus is come to save us playing on the radio in the local brothel or gay bar or rotary club? hallelujah!

    the Gift is for everyone!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    porcell @ 3

    I understand what you mean, but better..

    “The Peace of Christ on all the gnostic spiritual purists, and … conservative republicans, and liberal democrats, and the hot wiccan lipstick lesbian couple next door, and the hindu and muslim immigrants down the street and the neo nazis and the homosexuals and the legalistic lutherans or presybyterians or ucc members or … the libertine ELCA and bishop spong and those who say god is dead, and well. everybody!

    hollow plastic nativity scene lawn ornaments? bring em on! christmas music saying Jesus is come to save us playing on the radio in the local brothel or gay bar or rotary club? hallelujah!

    the Gift is for everyone!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    At one level, I see what you’re getting at, Dr. Veith. Certainly, the fact that non-believers celebrate the same holiday as us is, at least, an opening for discussion, even if the only things their celebration and ours have in common are the holiday name and a few traditions.

    But are people really “glorifying Christ” when they celebrate secular, materialistic, Santa-centered Xmases? Might we also extend that thinking to claim that prostitutes celebrate God’s gift of sex and procreation, as well?

    I guess it’s a question of how you view it. Is God’s will done in spite of sinful man’s tendency to twist God’s good gifts? Yes. Is God’s will done through sinful man’s actions? Yes. Should God be praised for that? Yes. Should man? No.

    Recognizing how God works through sinful man does not mean we cannot also decry man’s sinful actions. That’s what it means to believe in the Old and New Man in every Christian, right? So doesn’t that mean we can both celebrate what God does through secular, materialistic Christmas celebrations, and yet decry their lack of Christ-centeredness?

    The biblical passage that leaps to mind for me is 1 Cor. 11. There are Corinthians celebrating the Lord’s Supper in ways that are self-centered. Does Paul celebrate God’s working through that sacrament, all the same? He does. And yet he chastises the self-centeredness, all the same.

    I believe this should be our model for how we react to Christmas as well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    At one level, I see what you’re getting at, Dr. Veith. Certainly, the fact that non-believers celebrate the same holiday as us is, at least, an opening for discussion, even if the only things their celebration and ours have in common are the holiday name and a few traditions.

    But are people really “glorifying Christ” when they celebrate secular, materialistic, Santa-centered Xmases? Might we also extend that thinking to claim that prostitutes celebrate God’s gift of sex and procreation, as well?

    I guess it’s a question of how you view it. Is God’s will done in spite of sinful man’s tendency to twist God’s good gifts? Yes. Is God’s will done through sinful man’s actions? Yes. Should God be praised for that? Yes. Should man? No.

    Recognizing how God works through sinful man does not mean we cannot also decry man’s sinful actions. That’s what it means to believe in the Old and New Man in every Christian, right? So doesn’t that mean we can both celebrate what God does through secular, materialistic Christmas celebrations, and yet decry their lack of Christ-centeredness?

    The biblical passage that leaps to mind for me is 1 Cor. 11. There are Corinthians celebrating the Lord’s Supper in ways that are self-centered. Does Paul celebrate God’s working through that sacrament, all the same? He does. And yet he chastises the self-centeredness, all the same.

    I believe this should be our model for how we react to Christmas as well.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    ryan @ 8

    bingo.

    happy winter solstice.

    We don´t preach christ by preaching more law and making people feel guilty about literally forcing themselves to be charitable, giving and magnanimous during the christmas season. Now THAT would be a return to paganism!

    we say ” a Pax (latin for Peace) be upon you” not “a pox be upon you” .

    (and yes dear peter/porcell I DO know that your point of your pox comment was in agreement with what I am saying here! :) I am just using your pox because it reminded me of Pax. )

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    ryan @ 8

    bingo.

    happy winter solstice.

    We don´t preach christ by preaching more law and making people feel guilty about literally forcing themselves to be charitable, giving and magnanimous during the christmas season. Now THAT would be a return to paganism!

    we say ” a Pax (latin for Peace) be upon you” not “a pox be upon you” .

    (and yes dear peter/porcell I DO know that your point of your pox comment was in agreement with what I am saying here! :) I am just using your pox because it reminded me of Pax. )

  • helen

    My children sent me gifts actually “Made in USA” which meets my
    “employment creation” standard better than “Made in China”.

    My most unexpected gift was a jar of homemade strawberry jam from a friend at church.
    I haven’t had any so good since I went berry picking for my mother’s jam making!
    (A very long time ago…)

  • helen

    My children sent me gifts actually “Made in USA” which meets my
    “employment creation” standard better than “Made in China”.

    My most unexpected gift was a jar of homemade strawberry jam from a friend at church.
    I haven’t had any so good since I went berry picking for my mother’s jam making!
    (A very long time ago…)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Todd @ 17

    The law always accuses. Happy winter solstice! knock yerself out preaching the law to that hot wiccan lesbian couple next door to your in the form of informing them that they are not christ centered enough. Duh!

    and good luck at making your own old adam more christ centered by preaching the law to him. ahem. My advice: kill him with the law. So he is not christ centered. duh. that is what old adam is all about. a donut with a hole in the middle. “No Christ” IS the old adam agenda, or christ as mose, or example or revolutionary, or republican or democrat or whatever….

    Alcoholics drink. it is what they do. Old adam trusts in anything BUT christ. this is not new news and his death is the only solution to that problem.

    And this deathing or mortification is the work of the law. it is about doing. and yes, we do need to do our old adam selves to death.

    Making this exercise more “christ centered” as you propose will just take the fun out of disFUNctional by confusing mortification (deathing ourselves) with something called sanctification. It will put the focus on christ as example (read Law!) (which he is) rather than christ as savior (which is what we desperately need).

    Make him participate in the joy of others at christmas time for no particularly good reason or purpose other than to see people smile. Force him to be a nice grinch and not be a spiritual law enforcer at christmas time. God loves to see people happy! He really does. None of that materialism matters anyhow does it? It will have NO eternal consequences. None. zip . nada. But in with and under a sly comment about the real meaning of christmas, wrapped in Todd-as-Christmas-mirth-incarnate…. eternity beckons.

    Then just let your new man rejoice and be like a big ol kid at christmas time. He does not need to be told how to respond to the christmas baby.

    Jesus didnt tell the prostitute to stop bein a whore. He told her something remarkably diferent . He said : “go and sin no more!”

    To stop being a whore or be more christ centered is about lifestyle.

    To go and sin no more is about nothing less than our death.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Todd @ 17

    The law always accuses. Happy winter solstice! knock yerself out preaching the law to that hot wiccan lesbian couple next door to your in the form of informing them that they are not christ centered enough. Duh!

    and good luck at making your own old adam more christ centered by preaching the law to him. ahem. My advice: kill him with the law. So he is not christ centered. duh. that is what old adam is all about. a donut with a hole in the middle. “No Christ” IS the old adam agenda, or christ as mose, or example or revolutionary, or republican or democrat or whatever….

    Alcoholics drink. it is what they do. Old adam trusts in anything BUT christ. this is not new news and his death is the only solution to that problem.

    And this deathing or mortification is the work of the law. it is about doing. and yes, we do need to do our old adam selves to death.

    Making this exercise more “christ centered” as you propose will just take the fun out of disFUNctional by confusing mortification (deathing ourselves) with something called sanctification. It will put the focus on christ as example (read Law!) (which he is) rather than christ as savior (which is what we desperately need).

    Make him participate in the joy of others at christmas time for no particularly good reason or purpose other than to see people smile. Force him to be a nice grinch and not be a spiritual law enforcer at christmas time. God loves to see people happy! He really does. None of that materialism matters anyhow does it? It will have NO eternal consequences. None. zip . nada. But in with and under a sly comment about the real meaning of christmas, wrapped in Todd-as-Christmas-mirth-incarnate…. eternity beckons.

    Then just let your new man rejoice and be like a big ol kid at christmas time. He does not need to be told how to respond to the christmas baby.

    Jesus didnt tell the prostitute to stop bein a whore. He told her something remarkably diferent . He said : “go and sin no more!”

    To stop being a whore or be more christ centered is about lifestyle.

    To go and sin no more is about nothing less than our death.

  • Booklover

    “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.”
    –G.K. Chesterton

  • Booklover

    “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.”
    –G.K. Chesterton

  • Porcell

    FWS, Go and sin no more meant exactly what it says. The moral law is what it is and is meant to be obeyed. Christ was no antinomian. Paul made it clear in Romans 2, that we shall all be judged for our deeds as well as our faith.

  • Porcell

    FWS, Go and sin no more meant exactly what it says. The moral law is what it is and is meant to be obeyed. Christ was no antinomian. Paul made it clear in Romans 2, that we shall all be judged for our deeds as well as our faith.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Amen Dr. Veith. Christmas is one time when, as the old hymn says “He makes the Nations prove the Glories of His righteousness.” As Frank would say “A Pax upon all those super spiritual Grinches.

    Here is a section of something I wrote on the NRP blog several years ago.
    “You may be saying to yourself, “Well, our culture has forgotten the Christian meanings, too.” I say not entirely. Even then, Christ makes the Nations prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love.
    The cathedrals of commerce, our shopping malls and grocery stores play Christmas music for almost a month before Christmas. Shoppers are literally drenched with the praises of Christ while they engage in what amounts to preparation for extravagantly sacrificial giving to friends and family. Believers and unbelievers alike, once a year, spend what many people consider far too much, just to give it away. This in turn creates a huge wave of cash that washes around the globe creating jobs that allow people in other countries to buy food and clothing. I heard recently that most retail outlets don’t turn a profit until Black Friday, the first day of the Christmas shopping season. God teaches us about giving and provides daily bread for millions. All this because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

    If anyone is interested the rest is here: http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/2008/12/22/a-different-take-on-the-christmas-wars-2/

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Amen Dr. Veith. Christmas is one time when, as the old hymn says “He makes the Nations prove the Glories of His righteousness.” As Frank would say “A Pax upon all those super spiritual Grinches.

    Here is a section of something I wrote on the NRP blog several years ago.
    “You may be saying to yourself, “Well, our culture has forgotten the Christian meanings, too.” I say not entirely. Even then, Christ makes the Nations prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love.
    The cathedrals of commerce, our shopping malls and grocery stores play Christmas music for almost a month before Christmas. Shoppers are literally drenched with the praises of Christ while they engage in what amounts to preparation for extravagantly sacrificial giving to friends and family. Believers and unbelievers alike, once a year, spend what many people consider far too much, just to give it away. This in turn creates a huge wave of cash that washes around the globe creating jobs that allow people in other countries to buy food and clothing. I heard recently that most retail outlets don’t turn a profit until Black Friday, the first day of the Christmas shopping season. God teaches us about giving and provides daily bread for millions. All this because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

    If anyone is interested the rest is here: http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/2008/12/22/a-different-take-on-the-christmas-wars-2/

  • Jason Braaten

    Christians rejoice that the Gospel, the message of Christmas, is heard and practiced even among the pagans during this time of year. We are thankful that God continues to give opportunity and keep avenues open for the proclamation of this message. I’m thankful for it, that like Caiaphas their deeds and actions actually advance God’s plan not hinder it.

    But the so-called Scrooges in the church are on to something. They’re saying that this isn’t a one-way street. In rejoicing and using these opportunities the church is also becoming transformed by them. And the church is beginning to look no different than the world in the way it celebrates Christmas.

    They’re not just saying “Keep Christ in Christmas.” They’re also saying, “Keep the Mass in Christmas”–the Divine Service where our Lord is incarnate in Word and Sacrament to declare peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

    The so-called Scrooges aren’t Gnostic in this, but just the opposite. They get that this is a two-way street. That while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial. The Scrooges aren’t upset that pagans celebrate Christmas. Or that they use some music and decorations of the Church to do so. The so-called Scrooges are upset that the Church celebrates Christmas in the same way the pagans do–by ignoring Christ and his Mass.

    This is what we have when the Christmas season in the church begins with the first Sunday after the high feast of Thanksgiving. Or when churches are closed on Christmas Day because that’s a family day. Or when Christians on the Feast of Christ’s Mass choose to abstain from it. This is a choice not of using the way Pagans celebrate Christmas for an advancement of the Gospel. This is the paganization of the church. And when the church looks like the rest of the world, Satan has won.

  • Jason Braaten

    Christians rejoice that the Gospel, the message of Christmas, is heard and practiced even among the pagans during this time of year. We are thankful that God continues to give opportunity and keep avenues open for the proclamation of this message. I’m thankful for it, that like Caiaphas their deeds and actions actually advance God’s plan not hinder it.

    But the so-called Scrooges in the church are on to something. They’re saying that this isn’t a one-way street. In rejoicing and using these opportunities the church is also becoming transformed by them. And the church is beginning to look no different than the world in the way it celebrates Christmas.

    They’re not just saying “Keep Christ in Christmas.” They’re also saying, “Keep the Mass in Christmas”–the Divine Service where our Lord is incarnate in Word and Sacrament to declare peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

    The so-called Scrooges aren’t Gnostic in this, but just the opposite. They get that this is a two-way street. That while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial. The Scrooges aren’t upset that pagans celebrate Christmas. Or that they use some music and decorations of the Church to do so. The so-called Scrooges are upset that the Church celebrates Christmas in the same way the pagans do–by ignoring Christ and his Mass.

    This is what we have when the Christmas season in the church begins with the first Sunday after the high feast of Thanksgiving. Or when churches are closed on Christmas Day because that’s a family day. Or when Christians on the Feast of Christ’s Mass choose to abstain from it. This is a choice not of using the way Pagans celebrate Christmas for an advancement of the Gospel. This is the paganization of the church. And when the church looks like the rest of the world, Satan has won.

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    My Christmas Eve sermon was on this topic. It’s posted at our mission’s blog: http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    My Christmas Eve sermon was on this topic. It’s posted at our mission’s blog: http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/

  • SM

    Amen to Brother Braaten. Seems to me that Christmas as celebrated in contemporary America furthers the secularization of Christianity much more than it serves as an evangelical outreach to the secular world.

  • SM

    Amen to Brother Braaten. Seems to me that Christmas as celebrated in contemporary America furthers the secularization of Christianity much more than it serves as an evangelical outreach to the secular world.

  • Gulliver

    #24 wrote “Or when churches are closed on Christmas Day because that’s a family day. ”

    One should not judge too harshly how churches practice Christmas. In the German-American Lutheran culture the most important service was Christmas Eve, whereas in the Norwegian-American Lutheran culture Christmas Eve was for family celebrations and worship was on Christmas Day. While these distinctions are not seen as much now, they were a part of the religious practice in the last century.

  • Gulliver

    #24 wrote “Or when churches are closed on Christmas Day because that’s a family day. ”

    One should not judge too harshly how churches practice Christmas. In the German-American Lutheran culture the most important service was Christmas Eve, whereas in the Norwegian-American Lutheran culture Christmas Eve was for family celebrations and worship was on Christmas Day. While these distinctions are not seen as much now, they were a part of the religious practice in the last century.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWS (@20), rereading my comment (@17), I didn’t say what I meant very well, in addition to getting things wrong. But I’m not sure you were replying to what I said, all the same. Your comment is very much part of your recent theme of comments, but it appears only somewhat related to what I said.

    “Good luck at making your own old adam more christ centered by preaching the law to him.” Okay, now quote me my words where I said that this was my intent. Because I don’t think I said that, and I want to know why you’re accusing me of that.

    As I read it, Dr. Veith’s post was complaining about the use of the Law in this context. That we should not “complain” about materialism in Christmas celebrations. Do you agree that was Dr. Veith’s post? Do you agree with that idea, anyhow? Or is there, in fact, room for Law here, both for non-believers celebrating Santarrific consumerism and for believers chasing after them?

    I think the Law has a use here. But I don’t think that use is to convert or improve the Old Adam, as you accuse me.

    Nor do I think that condemning selfishness and materialism precludes enjoying the season and all its trappings, whether among believers or unbelievers.

    But what I’m getting from your comments, here and elsewhere, is that it’s simply wrong to condemn sins. Or maybe particular sins. Or, at least, in a blog context. Is that your point, or have I misunderstood?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWS (@20), rereading my comment (@17), I didn’t say what I meant very well, in addition to getting things wrong. But I’m not sure you were replying to what I said, all the same. Your comment is very much part of your recent theme of comments, but it appears only somewhat related to what I said.

    “Good luck at making your own old adam more christ centered by preaching the law to him.” Okay, now quote me my words where I said that this was my intent. Because I don’t think I said that, and I want to know why you’re accusing me of that.

    As I read it, Dr. Veith’s post was complaining about the use of the Law in this context. That we should not “complain” about materialism in Christmas celebrations. Do you agree that was Dr. Veith’s post? Do you agree with that idea, anyhow? Or is there, in fact, room for Law here, both for non-believers celebrating Santarrific consumerism and for believers chasing after them?

    I think the Law has a use here. But I don’t think that use is to convert or improve the Old Adam, as you accuse me.

    Nor do I think that condemning selfishness and materialism precludes enjoying the season and all its trappings, whether among believers or unbelievers.

    But what I’m getting from your comments, here and elsewhere, is that it’s simply wrong to condemn sins. Or maybe particular sins. Or, at least, in a blog context. Is that your point, or have I misunderstood?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    todd @ 27

    “The biblical passage that leaps to mind for me is 1 Cor. 11. There are Corinthians celebrating the Lord’s Supper in ways that are self-centered. Does Paul celebrate God’s working through that sacrament, all the same? He does. And yet he chastises the self-centeredness, all the same.

    I believe this should be our model for how we react to Christmas as well.”

    true earthly righteousness is mortification/self restraint/virtue + love.

    The corinthians were undisciplined and so they could not do love. Not even when doing the Lord´s Supper as commanded.

    I guess I am just now sure how you mean we should follow st paul over the materialism of christmans Todd. who is it that we need to preach the law to and for what end?

    When aunt sally comes to christmas service, and this is the only service she comes to every year, what is the law you are suggesting the pastor needs to preach to her.

    Let me back way up and let you explain that to me.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    todd @ 27

    “The biblical passage that leaps to mind for me is 1 Cor. 11. There are Corinthians celebrating the Lord’s Supper in ways that are self-centered. Does Paul celebrate God’s working through that sacrament, all the same? He does. And yet he chastises the self-centeredness, all the same.

    I believe this should be our model for how we react to Christmas as well.”

    true earthly righteousness is mortification/self restraint/virtue + love.

    The corinthians were undisciplined and so they could not do love. Not even when doing the Lord´s Supper as commanded.

    I guess I am just now sure how you mean we should follow st paul over the materialism of christmans Todd. who is it that we need to preach the law to and for what end?

    When aunt sally comes to christmas service, and this is the only service she comes to every year, what is the law you are suggesting the pastor needs to preach to her.

    Let me back way up and let you explain that to me.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    jason braaten @ 24

    what jason says. Elegant. that is what us christmas scrooges need to work at. more christ MASS during christmas.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    jason braaten @ 24

    what jason says. Elegant. that is what us christmas scrooges need to work at. more christ MASS during christmas.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWs (@29), I find it odd that you agree with what Braaten said (@24) here. Because so do I. And yet you seem to have a bone to pick with me on this topic. I wonder where the communication is failing, fully acknowledging that it could be on my end. Or that I may just be getting this wrong. After all, Braaten noted that “while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial.” Which was the point I was trying to make.

    Anyhow, to your points. “The corinthians were undisciplined and so they could not do love.” Indeed. Isn’t this true of us all?

    “Who is it that we need to preach the law to and for what end?” Not to sound flippant, but: to sinners, and for the purpose of convicting them of their sin, to point them to their need for a Savior.

    “What is the law you are suggesting the pastor needs to preach to [Aunt Sally]?” I’ve already answered this generally, but of course I can’t answer it specifically. Whatever she needs to hear to disabuse her of her self-righteousness, of the belief that she is good and impressing God.

    Might that include preaching about materialism, or other such Scrooge-y topics?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWs (@29), I find it odd that you agree with what Braaten said (@24) here. Because so do I. And yet you seem to have a bone to pick with me on this topic. I wonder where the communication is failing, fully acknowledging that it could be on my end. Or that I may just be getting this wrong. After all, Braaten noted that “while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial.” Which was the point I was trying to make.

    Anyhow, to your points. “The corinthians were undisciplined and so they could not do love.” Indeed. Isn’t this true of us all?

    “Who is it that we need to preach the law to and for what end?” Not to sound flippant, but: to sinners, and for the purpose of convicting them of their sin, to point them to their need for a Savior.

    “What is the law you are suggesting the pastor needs to preach to [Aunt Sally]?” I’ve already answered this generally, but of course I can’t answer it specifically. Whatever she needs to hear to disabuse her of her self-righteousness, of the belief that she is good and impressing God.

    Might that include preaching about materialism, or other such Scrooge-y topics?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    todd @ 30

    dear brother. I don´t really have a bone to pick with anything you said. I just did not understand it in a way that I could think of a pastor would wrap a sermon around it is all.

    the misscommunication actually is probably mine. thanks for being so nice.

    a blessed holiday to you and your family dear brother! How many days are left of christmas? time to go take advantage of those “after christmas” sales… it is so nice to be a liturgical christian and get to do that eh?!

    love you Todd!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    todd @ 30

    dear brother. I don´t really have a bone to pick with anything you said. I just did not understand it in a way that I could think of a pastor would wrap a sermon around it is all.

    the misscommunication actually is probably mine. thanks for being so nice.

    a blessed holiday to you and your family dear brother! How many days are left of christmas? time to go take advantage of those “after christmas” sales… it is so nice to be a liturgical christian and get to do that eh?!

    love you Todd!


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