Dragging Religion into Christmas

Dragging Religion into Christmas December 21, 2022

C. S. Lewis believed that we actually have two holidays:  a secular “Xmas” based on excess and commercialism, and the religious “Christmas” based on the birth of Christ.  The two have nothing to do with each other but just happen to be celebrated on the same day.

This is somewhat parallel to his belief that Christian marriage and secular marriage should be thought of as two separate institutions, as we blogged about last week.  His friend J. R. R. Tolkien rejected that view of marriage, and I reject that view of Christmas.  The task for Christians is to show how the gift-giving part has its basis in the gift of Christ.  This will entail re-focusing the giving and receiving of presents away from just being commercial transactions, towards being occasions for generosity and gratitude.  I think that’s how many gift-givers and gift-receivers do think of them.

We then need to think of them and encourage others to think of them in terms of grace and faith:  namely, reception of the gift of Jesus.  The happiness that comes from getting a wonderful gift from someone who loves us, as in unwrapping a present under a Christmas tree, can help us glimpse the joy that comes from faith in Christ.

Not completely abandoning the “commercial” side of Christmas is important for its spiritual meaning.  It isn’t just that Christmas is about the incarnation of God as a human child.  It’s about this incarnation of God as a human child being a gift to us and for us, which is accompanied by the free, undeserved gift of salvation and a joyous everlasting life.  Talk about gift-giving in excess!

The gift side of “Xmas” (the X referring to Chi, the Greek initial for “Christ,” and representing in Christian iconography the Cross) is thus, properly, emblematic of the Gospel.

Having said this, I recognize the problem, and it is getting worse.  Listening to various radio stations playing Christmas music, I could hardly find any Christmas carols about Jesus.  Used to, there were some.  This year there, at least on the stations I was listening to, all I was getting was “Santa, Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

And since Christmas this year falls on a Sunday, some churches are cancelling their Sunday service!  We should go to church on Christmas no matter what day it falls on, but for a church to cancel the service it usually has because of Christmas is especially perverse.  I can understand non-believers taking Christ out of Christmas, but why would churches–in the name of “letting members spend the holiday with their families” or “giving the church staff the holiday off”–take Christ out of Christmas?  (For  rationalizations, read this.)

All of this is buildup to an anecdote from Lewis, which proves that something can be hilarious and tragic at the very same time.  As quoted by Jennifer Graham and Lois M. Collins in C.S. Lewis has a different take on Christmas. Here’s what he had to say:

Just a hurried line … to tell a story which puts the contrast between our Feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly ‘Xmas’ racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a crib outside it … ‘They bring religion into everything. Look, they’re dragging it even into Christmas now’.

C. S. Lewis, Personal Correspondence

We need to drag religion into Christmas.  As opposed to dragging religion out of Christmas.


Illustration from Public Domain Vectors, CC0

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