Deconstructing Christmas

Deconstructing Christmas December 5, 2023

IMAGE: Keith Giles [MidJourney]
If you’ve gone through the painful process of deconstructing your Christian faith, you’ve no doubt realized that almost everything about the Christmas story is worth deconstructing, too. In fact, you may have already started to question doctrines like the Virgin Birth, or some of the concepts surrounding the Incarnation, as well as the aspects of Penal Substitution that often pop up in Christmas hymns and carols that mention the crucifixion or how baby Jesus came to die for our sins, etc.

In fact, when I recently asked people in our private Square 1 Facebook group what they were currently struggling with, this question of Christmas came up almost immediately. My friend Kari Jo responded by saying:

“[I’m deconstructing] what this Christmas season experience is for me. Many carols or popular Christmas songs contain theology and doctrine that hold zero value for me. It’s such a strange dichotomy of wanting to hold on to certain aspects of tradition because I love the togetherness it offers our family and my new understanding of who Jesus was and now is to me. Everything surrounding the Christmas story now seems like a fantastical legend to me.”

And I’m certain my friend Kari Jo is not alone. Many of us wrestle with celebrating Christmas for various reasons. Some of us don’t want to celebrate it, but our family does. This puts pressure on us to go along with something we no longer believe in. Others still want to celebrate Christmas, but they feel weird doing so when everyone around them knows they no longer believe in the theological underpinning of the holiday itself.

So, do we celebrate Christmas or not? Do we want to, or not? Should we allow people to force us to celebrate it if we don’t want to? Or should we allow people to prevent us from celebrating it if we do want to?

First of all, let’s back up and establish that Christmas is a totally pagan holiday. The only thing “Christian” about Christmas is what was added to it after the fact. What I mean is, gathering together on December 25th to celebrate the holidays by sharing gifts around a tree and taking time to care for the poor in our community was something started a long time ago by the pagans. They called it “Saturnalia” and it was originally a celebration devoted to the pagan deity Saturn.

Not that this, in itself is any reason not to celebrate Christmas. It’s just worth noting that what we call “Christmas” has already been cut-and-pasted from one thing to create another thing. With this in mind, we should have no problem taking a few liberties with how we see this holiday and give ourselves permission to play “Mister Potato Head” with Christmas if we feel like it.

In other words, if there are some elements of Christmas you like, keep them. If there are some elements of Christmas you don’t like, change them. You and I are not bound to observe anything just because tradition says so. Especially if we realize that the tradition is actually about changing things we don’t like to replace them with things we do like.

Obviously, if celebrating Christmas makes you uncomfortable due to the fact that you no longer believe in the Virgin Birth, or the Incarnation, or the miraculous appearance of angels in the sky singing to shepherds, or to travelling “Wise Men” who were following a star in the sky, or even that Herod ordered the execution of male children under a certain age [for which there is absolutely zero historical evidence], then, by all means, do not celebrate Christmas. No one should be forced to observe or celebrate something they don’t believe in.

But, if you do want to celebrate Christmas – even if you no longer believe a lot of the Christian elements of the Christmas story – feel free to do so. Most of us who love Christmas do so, not because of the theological aspects of the holiday, but because of the fond memories we have of waking up early on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought us, or of being together with family members we love. We may love Christmas because we enjoy the nostalgia of Christmas carols, and lights, and decorating the tree; of hot chocolate and cocoa around the fireplace, of watching our loved ones open the gift we bought for them, or of receiving a gift that meant so much to us.

Our reasons for loving this season may be varied, but they are no less valid if we no longer embrace the theology of Christmas. In fact, I’d argue that our most precious memories of Christmas have nothing at all to do with the Virgin Birth, or the Incarnation, or the inerrancy of Scripture, and everything to do with our personal experiences and memories.

So, while Christmas can be a difficult time for those of us who have Deconstructed our faith, we can still enjoy certain aspects of the season – if we want to. Or, if we would rather not participate in the Christmas celebration, we have the right not to.

So much of our Reconstruction experience is about choosing for ourselves what we believe and deciding what activities add to our spiritual enrichment and which do not. Choosing and deciding are central elements of our reality moving on from Deconstruction. We can decide what we want to experience – what creates meaning for us – and what doesn’t.

Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.  Mary probably wasn’t a virgin when she conceived and gave birth. [The word is actually just the word “young maiden” in the Scriptures]. Herod didn’t order the execution of male children. So what? Who cares? To paraphrase, a wise man once said something like: “Christmas was made for man, not man for Christmas.”

So, feel free to do Christmas, or not. Even if you’re still in the middle of your Deconstruction and you still don’t know what to believe about any of it. Pour yourself some eggnog, pop on the Burl Ives music, and fire up the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. Or, grab a beer, watch the game and order some Chinese take-out. It’s your life.

**

Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.

His latest book, Second Cup with Keith is available now on Amazon HERE>

 

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