The Christmas wars throughout history

Christmas in the CrosshairsA new book by Gerry Bowler entitled Christmas in the Crosshairs:  Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday points out that the “Christmas wars”–the conflict between secular and religious observances of Christmas–have been going on throughout the history of Christianity.  The Bishop of Amasea complained in 400 A.D. about how Christmas presents make children greedy.  St. Augustine complained about the commercialization of Christmas.  And Christians have long complained about the conflict between the drunken revelry once Theassociated with the day and its true meaning.

Meanwhile opponents of Christianity have tried to either suppress or co-opt the birthday of Christ.  At one point in the Soviet Union, children had to be told that their presents came not from St. Nicholas but from Stalin.  And Nazi Germany sang a revised version of “Silent Night” that replaced Jesus with Hitler.

After the jump, an excerpt from a review of the book.

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From “the most humiliating year in our history” to victory

256px-USS_California_sinking-Pearl_HarborToday is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.   The Daily Oklahoman has a fascinating and moving feature looking not only at the coverage of that event but of its anniversary through the war years and beyond.

We often forget that the first year of the war we were losing.  The editorial  for December 7, 1942, called it “the bitterest and most humiliating year in our history.”  The next year’s paper was sober but more upbeat.  Then we see optimism.  In 1945 we see the exuberance–and relief–of victory, along with a memorial to those who died achieving it.

The feature gives us a picture of what a unified nation looks like and something of what it felt like to be caught up in a collective cause that was a matter of life and death, not only for individuals, friends, and loved ones–nearly every family had someone fighting–but for the country itself.  It must have been terrible to go through, but also good.

And we can’t help but wonder if America would be capable of that today.

Read a sampling from the newspaper accounts after the jump. [Read more…]

And now, the commercialization of Advent

Adventkalender_AROne reason that many Christians are rediscovering Advent is that Christmas has become so commercialized.  Advent is a way to keep our concentration on what the Christmas season is supposed to be about, namely, the coming of Christ.  But now Advent is also becoming commercialized!

Alissa Wilkinson has written a good explanation of Advent for Vox.  She explains the history of the season and what it means.  She includes some interesting details that I had not realized.  (For example, that Lutherans invented the Advent Calendar.  By the way, Lutherans apparently also invented the Advent Wreath, according to another source that I stumbled upon, which says the wreath derives from the Scandinavian custom of hanging up a wagon wheel decorated with evergreens and candles.)

She then says that the theme of “anticipation”–specifically, anticipation for Christmas (rather than for Christ)–is for non-religious people too.  She focuses on the secularized versions of Advent calendars, which are built around candy or Santa Clausy things for children and product lines for adults.   [Read more…]

Explaining Advent

photo-1421906375741-f6bda4abe433_optHappy New Year!  That is to say, Happy Advent, the beginning of the new church year.

Many Christians, including those from churches that haven’t usually done much with the church year other than Christmas and Easter, are discovering Advent.  (See, for example, this piece from the evangelical radio program Breakpoint.)

After the jump is an excellent explanation of the season from the website of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

The meaning of Advent has some specific content beyond just getting ready for Christmas.  As the website says, the season–in the Bible readings and the devotions for the days–the season reflects on the “advent” or “coming” of Christ in three senses:

  1. In the past (the prophecies of Christ’s coming)
  2. In the future (Christ’s second coming)
  3. In the present (How Christ comes today)

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Thanksgiving in Australia

It’s strange being in Australia for Thanksgiving.  We’re getting together with some other expatriate Americans, but since no one gets off work for Thursday, we’re going to have our big meal on Saturday.  Though since American Thursday is Australian Friday, we’re off anyway.  Scrounging all over town for Turkey, cranberries, cornmeal (for dressing), and other staples also gives a new dimension to the feast, but I think we have found everything.  We certainly have a lot to be thankful about, so we can remember those things even on the other side of the world.

So may you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Dependence Day

July 4 is Independence Day.  Thanksgiving is Dependence Day, a time to remember how dependent we are on God and on each other.  And our appreciation of this dependence is gratitude.

After the jump, a post by one of my ex-students quoting one of my ex-colleagues. [Read more…]