About Me


Powered by Blogger.
Friday, December 16, 2011

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

John Buchanan's editorial in the latest issue of the Christian Century, and this article by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, have me thinking about the place of Christmas in the Christian life.  Here are some highlights from Buchanan and Wallis, the origins of Christmas are pagan, which is reflected in many aspects of our celebration.  The defenders of the observance of Christmas in American public life are defending secular practices, not Christian ones.  The Puritans opposed Christmas as an essentially pagan holiday, and even banned celebrations for a portion of the 17th century.  The Roman church attempted to co-opt pagan celebrations around the solstice by observing a Christ Mass on December 25.  Christians have been fighting a losing battle against Saturnalia (what we might call secular Christmas) ever since.

So the question is, should we give up?  Should we just say Saturnalia won and find other ways and seasons to mark the incarnation and the birth of Christ? Perhaps we could continue to dabble in secular Christmas, but recognize it for what it is, rather than try to merge ancient pagan festivities with the observance of Christ's birth?

Aside from the likelihood that such an effort would totally fail, I see another reason why we need modern Christmas, with all its glitz and excess, and that reason is joy.  This is especially true for Mennonites.  Did you know joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit?  Who knew?

Some years ago, a family member visited us at Christmas, and asked why Mennonites always dress in grey scale.  I said I hadn't noticed.  Perhaps this is illustrative of the fact that Mennonites struggle with joy.  Severe, austere, stoic, drab, yes, but not joy, as if happiness were a sin.  But the pursuit of and expression of joy ought to be a Christian practice.  We ought to look for opportunities to be joyful, and to express Christian cheerfulness.

And this is where Christmas comes in.  To be sure, Easter's joy ought to surpass that of Christmas.  But Christmas is a place to start practicing.  It is a season when we are encouraged to be happy and generous, even in secular contexts.  As you celebrate this year, remember that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.


Allen Peachey said...


I write to let you know I applaud your call for us to "look for opportunities to be joyful, and to express Christian cheerfulness." May we as Mennonites
exude joy to all those we meet througout the year.