A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Xmas and Christmas

In an earlier entry, I linked to an article about megachurches being closed on Sunday, December 25, to honor Christmas. A great many blogs have covered this topic already, so I was reluctant to say anything. What more could I add to the wisdom of The Broken Messenger, Scot McKnight, or Michelle Arnold? The topic has already been hashed out on message boards both pro and con. However, an unrelated link to a Lewis essay (see below) made me think about the subject a little more, and I decided to share my ruminations with the blogosphere after all.

My own personal take on the subject is it is deeply sad that attending church services on Christmas day should be viewed as an imposition or an obstacle to the celebration of Christmas. Worshiping together with the community of Christians should add to the festivities, not take away from them. It shouldn't be a case of "Ah, Mom, do we have to go to church? It's Christmas!" but of "Hey everybody, let's go celebrate Jesus' birth with our fellow Christians!" However, I realize that for Christians who do not normally attend Christmas day services, it's harder to think that way. If your observance of Christmas is purely private and domestic (that is, it may be religious but it always takes place within your family) or purely secular (that is, if it only means eating, opening gifts, and being merry) then of course "having" to go to church on Christmas morning, because it's a Sunday, is going to seem like an imposition.

This private or secular celebration is, of course, not the traditional meaning of the holiday: one can tell simply by looking at the name. Christmas is supposed to be about more than just celebrating with your family. It is supposed to be a liturgical festival, a "churchly" holiday that you celebrate with your local congregation. That is why the word "Mass" is included in the English holiday. As other bloggers have eloquently said, "let's keep the Mass in Christmas."

But, you may say, that's just a Catholic idea. It's not Protestant to go to church on Christmas. Oh? C.S. Lewis would have something different to say about that. In this essay from God in the Dock, Lewis sees Christmas worship as one of the differences which seperate Christians from their secular compatriots. After describing the frustation, exhaustion and expense that result from a purely secular celebration of "Xmas," Lewis' historian-narrator says:

But the few among the Niatirbians [psst- "Britain" backwards]have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas , which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

Lots of Christians from every denomination will be enjoying C.S. Lewis' storytelling abilities this year by watching the Narnia movie. I hope some of them will take to heart his view of the difference between Christmas and Xmas. Let's not be taken in by the great Xmas "racket."


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