Sunday, 9 December 2012

"What Christmas Means to Me," by C.S. Lewis

Last year I took a little flack for what some thought was a "Hate On" that I had for Christmas. Blog posts such as So this is Christmas and a few other Facebook and Twitter posts left some feeling that I was attacking them and that I was ultimately nothing more than a scrooge.

So this year, in an effort to keep the peace and so as not to offend and ruffle too many feathers, I am not planning to share much on the subject, other than this one post.

A while ago I came across a book by C.S. Lewis called, "God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics." In one of those essays, Lewis shares his views on Christmas.

I was somewhat surprised to read that he actually condemned the whole event. Why? Not because of the religious festival that it has become for some, nor because of the historical connections to Bethlehem, or even because of the "merry-making and hospitality," as he calls it. Then why does he condemn it? Let me share a portion of his essay that he calls, "What Christmas Means to Me." He writes,
1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out - physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house. 
2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go? 
3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself - gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish? 
4. The nusance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it. 
We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter  just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.
Well, there you have it; C.S. Lewis' take on Christmas. I wonder how many of us, if we were really honest with ourselves, wouldn't agree with him on at least a couple of those points. But then again, in the interest of political correctness, maybe we just continue internalizing our thoughts on this conspiracy of the greeting card companies and "novelty" manufacturers. (Yes, I am being facetious).

Don't get me wrong. Contrary to the views of some, I am not really a scrooge. While it is true that I hate the commercialization of it, I love Christmas time as we celebrate it as a family. What does Christmas mean to me? For one thing, the decorations in our home are simple and few, and conspicuous by the absence of the traditional decorated Christmas trees, lights and gaudy lawn ornaments. The focus in our home is family time. My wife and I love having our kids together for a few days. We love the iTunes randomly playing in the background as we laugh and hoot 'n holler playing table games and shooting a few rounds of pool. We love the family gathered for meals together and the excessive munchies, that we all seriously over indulge in. For a few days, the outside world is all but silenced as we connect and regroup as a family unit.

But to each their own. I guess that's what it all comes down to. As the Apostle Paul said,
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). 
However you choose to celebrate, or if you choose to celebrate, may it be a time of blessing and may you find peace in it. From our home to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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