I try to read something Christmasy every year during Advent. Last year it was the wicked funny (and also sensitive and poignant), Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present, by Hank Steuver, the pop culture writer for the Washington Post. (Truth is, I’ll dip back into Tinsel for some levity over coming weeks.)
My Christmas reading for this Christmas is Christmas: Festival of Incarnation by Donald Heinz.
Donald Heinz brilliantly unearths the social practices and broader cultural history of Christmas, even as he traces the original and evolving incarnational theology that occasionally still shines through in our celebrations of Christmas. Heinz’s thick description of the religious and cultural history of Christmas, from its origins in the sacred texts of early Christianity to the figure of Santa Claus to the commercial spree of today, is a marvelous pilgrimage through lived religion as it appears in folkways, music, art, and literature. Yet it also assays the deeper theological meaning and appropriations of this central festival and asks whether retrieving Christmas can enable deeper appreciation of the reality of incarnation in each era and, perhaps, even today.
I invite you to get a copy, too, and we can have a little Advent Book Club here.