Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Explored?

Celebrating CHRISTMAS seems to be increasingly unacceptable. In the name of religious tolerance its being replaced with winterval, festival of lights and that sort of thing. The religious tolerance argument doesn't really hold though because other religious festivals are openly celebrated. And those of other religions don't seem all that offended. A few years back I gave a Muslim colleague a book about Christianity in our "secret santa". Many of my secular colleagues were deeply offended. He however seemed to really appreciate it. This seems similar. It looks like a secular anti-christianity agenda. And of course, this unoffending secularism presumes all religions to be equally false...

Now, that said, secularists have the right to their views. And I don't overly see the necessity to celebrate Jesus' birth on a particular day. The incarnation of Jesus is incredibly important but Christians don't keep special holy days - we can remember the incarnation every day! And likewise, Jesus' death and resurrection...

For most people Christmas isn't really about Christ - in the same way that the 72% of British people who claim to be Christians aren't particularly concerned about Christ. Christmas for most people is about tradition and family and escapism. And in that case surrendering it to be a secular holiday is probably ok with me.

But, if we're going to develop a context of religious pluralism then its only fair to provide some way for people to find out about Christianity rather than eliminating it from the picture. What I'm saying is that pragmatically its only fair to give us Christians a share of the picture - if you really want a fair secular society.

In such a context, I see no need for Christians to be ashamed to proclaim the message that has shaped our nation for a long time, and which if true has eternal and cosmic implications. We need to learn how to dialogue and live together now that our culture is becoming more pluralistic (we're probably a long way off 1st Century Athens yet though). Spreading ignorance and refusing to talk robustly about things isn't the way to do that though - rather lets rediscover the ability to debate rigorously.

Whatever you want to call the national holidays and celebrations that centre on December 25th (which probably wasn't the day Jesus was actually born...), why not take the opportunity to engage rigorously with what the Christian message is actually about? Worldwide it's proclaimed and believed.... can't hurt to find out what its content is, to ask questions and see if it makes sense. Carol Services that churches hold exist largely for that purpose and its amazing to see how many people come to them even in "secular" Britain... Ask, who this Jesus claims to be. Ask, why he came. Look at his life. Look at his death. Look at the claims of his resurrection. 2005, try Christmas, explored.

UPDATE: Justin Taylor on the origins of Christmas. Interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think Christmas is cancelled as yet. Andrew Rilstone wrote a brilliant piece on how the Mail/Express make a big fuss about nothing. In any case, I don't find it too offensive, so long as I'm allowed to celebrate Christmas my way and everyone else can celebrate it their way. As it is, it's barely recognisable as a Christian festival. I doubt anyone would guess the saintly origins of Santa Claus, link gifts with the Magi, or even remember what 'Christ' means in Christmas, if they hadn't been told in some RE lesson in the dark recesses of their memory.

    The BBC article seems to be to be more about Christians making a fuss than any genuine oppression (It has been 13 years since the last presidential card explicitly mentioned Christmas - in deference to other holidays at this time of year, like Hanukkah - but this didn't deter the critics.) I don't think people believe Christmas is nearly as offensive as some news sources portray.

    Also, when was the last time you saw another religion's festival openly celebrated? I think I might see cards for Eid or Diwali occasionally, but there's still no governmental recognition of them - no bank holidays on Diwali! Secularism seems to me like simply wanting to enjoy the benefits without the responsibility. Christmas is fine without those pesky Christians reminding us that it's about Jesus. Hanukkah's OK so long as it's something that's culturally Jewish and not to do with God. Even people who claim to celebrate Yule would balk at the idea of following a druidic religion. Ignore them and enjoy Christmas your way :)