Who Stole Christmas – N.T. Wright or the Grinch?

'Grinch - Ice! 2' photo (c) 2010, greyloch - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I loved this article! Thanks to Michael Gorman for posting it to FB.

Excerpt from First Things by Peter Liethart:

Just this year, I had another realization. N. T. Wright has spoiled Christmas too.

Wright made me see the fairly radical difference in tone and content between Advent and Christmas hymns. Advent hymns, as you’d expect, are full of longing, and the language of the prophets. Advent hymns are about Israel’s desperations and hope, and specifically hope that the Christ would come in order to keep Yahweh’s promise to restore His people, and through them to restore the nations….

Advent hymns are about Israel. They are deeply and thoroughly and thrillingly political. Advent hymns look forward not to heaven but the redemption of Israel and of the nations, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

When we turn to Christmas hymns, these themes almost completely drop out. How many Christmas hymns mention Israel? Many refer to Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, but Jerusalem?

When the Old Testament is mentioned at all, Christmas hymns tend to reach back to Adam. Jesus is the “Second Adam from above” who has come to “efface Adam’s likeness.” Jesus is David’s Son, but how many Christmas hymns mention Abraham? It’s as if the whole history of Israel has not happened….

Biblical Christmas hymns are very, very different. They are explicitly rooted in the history of Abraham, Moses, David, exile, and the longing for return. They are overtly, even uncomfortably, political….

Now, those sound like our Advent hymns, not our Christmas hymns. And they sound like the kind of Christmas hymns that N. T. Wright might have written. As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch. He didn’t steal Christmas. What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas. READ FULL ARTICLE

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  • Some good points though I am turned off by the negative tone of the article. I see nothing wrong with Christmas hymns as long as the political, Jewish, Advent connective tissue remains as well. While this article clearly despises the poetry, I do not. Instead of bashing it, perhaps it would be more constructive to reframe it as making sure we are not forgetting a large part of the tradition. The Christmas hymns are not Advent hymns because Christmas is not about waiting for God to change things, its about God being with us now and the world being changed now. The distinction is necessary.