Saturday, January 4, 2014

Eleventh Day of Christmas 2014

Yesterday, I noted the fact that only two of the four canonical gospels speak of Jesus' birth. I think this needs to be highlighted each year as we get overwhelmed with the secular/commercial Christmas. Even more, the earliest Christian writings that we have---the letters from Paul---have no mention of infancy narratives or much of anything about Jesus before his crucifixion.

There's much made each December of how Christmas took over other winter festivals in various cultures. There is no need to be offended by this, certainly no cause to be defensive about it. Christmas didn't exist until the fourth century, centuries after Jesus walked the earth. There's no need to pretend that this has always been a holiday on par with Easter.

That's not to say that it's wrong to celebrate or observe Christmas. The stories from Matthew and Luke give us some significant pieces of our theology, particularly the piece that God became human and lived among us. All the ways we understand the Image of God coalesce into the stories of this rabbi from Nazareth who became dangerous enough to religious and political leaders to be killed.

So this isn't a war on Christmas post. I just think there's some perspective we've lost.

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Interesting things I found while googling around the internet, mostly to back up my memory that Christmas first appeared in the fourth century. 

I knew that the Puritans didn't observe Christmas, but from 1659 to 1681, Christmas was against the law in Boston. Talk about a war against Christmas! You could get fined five shillings for observing the day! 

Washington Irving (of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" fame) might be credited with creating American Christmas with the publication of The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent. in 1819. He writes of old customs that he apparently made up, but set the tone for Christmas becoming a holiday of family warmth and feasting. 

Christmas was not a national holiday in the United States until 1870. 

The more you know . . .

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