HERE'S AN INTERESTING BOOK: Stephen Nissenbam's The Battle for Christmas.
Yes, I'm being contrary with this title. And it is not true. But is was once kind of true. Our Puritans forefathers in New England were hostile to the holiday as part of their hostility to the Roman Catholic Church and disdain for excess. On Christmas day of 1686, Magistrate Samuel Sewell was glad to record that most shops were open and people were going about their business. It is strange to think of commerce as a sign of the dwindling of Christmas. The Christmas season was an excuse for drunken violence and low grade extortion. In 1679 four young men stopped by the home of the Rowdens, pushed their way in, sang a song, then demanded drinks. They came wassailing among the leaves so green. The Rowdens refused to serve the pushy and already drunk young men. The men harassed this old couple and vandalized their home. They broke into a shed and stole apples. Some Holiday spirit. Jump ahead a few centuries, and we find good, old Charlie Brown lamenting the commercialization of Christmas. Blessedly, Linus give us the straight scoop on the meaning of Christmas:
Christmas raises all manner of contradictions. Many people find themselves blue or even depressed because it is the most wonderful time of the year. I decry and get caught up in the excessive buying of gifts. Perhaps these contradictions are inherent in Christmas. The baby at the center of the holiday is a living contradiction. He is both fully human and fully divine. He is one person, but he has two different natures (that is the very old, traditional and trustworthy wayto describe Jesus). Jesus is a living contradiction. Even that claim carries the contradiction of Jesus. He was crucified, dead and buried, but now is alive. Jesus is a little baby at Mary's bosom; through him all things in heaven and on earth were created. Jesus is the Word that existed before creation; Jesus is a squawking, toothless, speechless baby. We cannot make sense of the two things together, but there he is, a living contradiction.
You can join me in my contrary mood about Christmas with Stephen Nissenbam's The Battle for Christmas. I should admit, that while the book is interesting, I still haven't finished it. Let me know if I should. Or for more fun, jam out with the Peanuts gang: