Cancelling church on Christmas

Trinity_Lutheran_Church,_Friedheim,_Missouri_altar,_Dec_20,_2013Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  So once again, many congregations are CANCELLING SERVICES!  That boggles my mind.  You should go to church on Christmas even when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday!  But when it does, why wouldn’t you go to church as you usually would?

OK, I understand about opening presents, making the Christmas dinner, and all that.  I understand someone missing church, though that’s not to condone it.  But what I cannot understand is a church that would not open its doors on Christmas day, that would not worship Christ on the commemoration of His birth.

I guess this practice is more common than I realized.  I’ve heard the reason given that Christmas is a family time, so we are going to be “worshipping” by spending time with our families.  But that’s just more secularizing of the holiday.  Maybe someone can explain it to me.

UPDATE:  Here is a defense of the practice, one that slams us critics.  Do you find it convincing?  I guess the big difference is one of theology.  The defense portrays worship as something we do–hard work that we sometimes need a break from–with little sense of what we receive when we worship or of Christ actually being present when we worship.

After the jump, Jonathan Aigner, gives 8 reasons NOT to cancel church services on Christmas.

Just as it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas, it’s important to keep “mass” in Christmas.  In fact, doing the latter is the best way to do the former.

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Ceremonial Deism

5770-a-house-with-christmas-lights-at-night-pvThe Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that Nativity scenes in publicly-owned spaces are legal.  As long as they don’t mean anything.  Hillsdale Sophomore Nic Rowan writing in the Federalist sees this as an example of “ceremonial deism.”

After the jump, read his argument and my thoughts on the matter.
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“Even if they are fools, they shall not go astray”

camino-santiago-1180770_1280More prophecies of the coming of Christ for our Advent contemplation:  Isaiah 35, yesterday’s Old Testament reading.  I give the chapter after the jump.  It’s about how God “will come and save you,” and what this will mean for “the redeemed,” those “ransomed by the Lord.”  This includes those who are weak, infirm, and “anxious.”  I take special comfort from verse 8:  “even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”
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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…]