For the past three weeks I’ve been leading my Sunday School class through the history of Christmas–not the history of Jesus’ birth but rather the history of us celebrating the birth of Jesus. I confess one of my sources for preparing lessons was the nine Anxious Bench posts I have written about Christmas during the past eight years. So I thought I would pull these posts together for you as well as provide some commentary and reflection. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed remembering.
When I first began writing on the Anxious Bench (2015), I often tackled the history behind modern holidays and ideas–from Halloween to Easter. Yet my goal wasn’t just to explain the historical accuracy (or more often inaccuracy) of modern traditions. It was also to provide some historical commentary on modern evangelical controversies. Take for example the “War on Christmas.” As Liam Stack wrote for the New York Times in 2016, “The idea of a ‘War on Christmas’ has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity.” Stack also notes that much of the “War on Christmas” has taken place on “conservative talk radio and cable programs” presenting an embattled mentality. Three of my posts have taken on this embattled mentality, urging evangelical Christians to not only have a better understanding of Christmas traditions but also to trade the war mentality for the true spirit of Christmas–the peace of Christ. These posts are “1647: The Year Christians Cancelled Christmas,” “Bringing the Spirit of (Medieval) Santa back to Christmas,” and “Because Xmas is Really Xpian.” As I wrote in the conclusion of my 1647 post:
“The Christmas of 1647 is forever marked by a spirit of strife. Christians, complaining that traditional Christmas was too “popish” and secular with sporting games and revelry…, literally fought over the celebration of Christ’s birth. I can’t help but wonder how history would have been different if, instead of marked by war among Christians, the Christmas of 1647 had been marked by the spirit of the baby in the manager: “our Lord, Jesus Christ…the prince of peace.”
Indeed, I still can’t help but wonder how history would have been different if, instead of marked by war among Christians, Christmas was marked by a spirit of peace…..(By the way “Because Xmas is Really Xpian is one of my favorite posts of all time).
I also can’t help but wonder how history would have been different if Protestants hadn’t rejected the significance of Jesus coming through the body of a woman instead of fixating on the male body of Jesus. Three of my Christmas posts have focused on the significance of Mary’s role and how it has been forgotten by modern evangelicals–“Disrupting Our Nativity,” “God’s Christmas Gift to Women,” and “God’s Christmas Gift to Women: Revised,” . As I write in “God’s Christmas Gift to Women”:
“In a world that told women they were less than men, the Christmas story told medieval women something different. As another late medieval preacher wrote, “The daughter of Eve was the beginning of damnation for mankind; [but] the faith of women in the new law was the beginning of salvation for mankind. The faith of Our Lady Saint Mary was the beginning of salvation for our world,” (Longleat House MS. 4, folios 35v-37v). For medieval people, a woman was not only part of God’s salvation plan; she was crucial to its success.”
As for my final three Christmas posts, two connected directly with The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth (one was the post I wrote about in the intro to #MakingBiblicalWomanhood and one was my post reflecting on that the Christmas before #MakingBiblicalWomanhood was published).
As for my final Christmas post? Well, it was just because I thought the controversy over sausage-roll Jesus was funny……
Merry Christmas, y’all!
Medieval Christmas Tradition Behind Sausage Roll Jesus Controversy