Saturday, December 14, 2013

'tis the Season

It has always interested me that the Christ in Christmas is ignored, or at best downplayed significantly, by so many Australians. There are some people of other religious faiths who naturally do not celebrate Christmas. Then there are the majority of Australians who do celebrate Christmas, but would describe themselves as not religious. The latter often use the line "I have my own beliefs".

What is particularly curious is the deliberate exclusion of Christ from Christmas. Someone recently said to me that Christmas had nothing to do with religion. She meant for her personally, but it sounded so dismissive that it made me wonder. I understand if people don't want to emphasize the religious aspect of Christmas. If they do not want to acknowledge that the birth of the single most influential person ever is personally significant; fair enough. However you can't say it is not important. To deny the poignancy of this historical event, and its subsequent, and continuing impact on billions of people seems a bit ludicrous. Whatever else it may be to people, Christmas, as the name suggests, is patently about the birth of Jesus Christ. To say otherwise, is insulting and offensive.

There are number of universal values which are associated with Christmas aside from overtly religious ones. Omitting the few Grinches who dwell among us, most people, Christian or not, recognize the Christmas season as a time for family and friends, for giving and receiving, and a time for relaxing and reflecting. We all desire peace and we wish others well. There is a spirit of generosity and hospitality, a kind of communal bonhomie which permeates life, from the workplace to the market place, to our homes and neighbourhoods. It is a happy time, and a hopeful time for most people.

Generally, people will give the same basic answer to the question, "What does Christmas mean for you?" so it makes perfect sense to me, in identifying these common values, to also acknowledge their source. Values do not originate in vacuums. Are Christmas values not also Christian values, or religious values? Or do they spring from the hearts of men, as humanists would have us believe. What is the origin of faith, and hope and love? Where do these cherished and indispensable qualities come from? Are they human or divine?

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  1. Amen. And i dont like this "xmas" expression either. Whats wrong with these humanoids?

  2. Regardless of whether one accepts Christ as one's Savior, the Spirit of the season—hope, love, peace—evolved from Christianity. Christmas = Christ's Mass. If you leave out Christ, you may be celebrating, you may even be celebrating Christian Values™, but once Christ is eliminated, you aren't celebrating Christmas. I don't believe you have to be Christian to acknowledge Christ and preserve the Spirit of the season. To me it's not an issue of religion, but one of respect.

    VR Barkowski

    1. Precisely. Said lack of respect is what I was complaining/wondering about.

    2. I'm not a Christian or religious, but I accept the ideas of Christ as a philosophy of compassion. And even though Christmas is based on Christ's birth, over the centuries many people have added to the themes of Christmas. It's a communal holiday about good will to all. Collectively we all try to make the spirit of the holiday about bringing out the best in our species. Who could reject that?

    3. "Bringing out the best in our species"...yes James. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  3. I don't know about Australia, but in America, Christmas is a secular holiday, as well as a religious one. Given our separation between church and state, that's pretty much required of a federal holiday, but it goes deeper than that. Most of the trimmings of Christmas - Santa Claus, Christmas trees, decorative lights, gift giving, etc. - are secular.

    And Christmas itself is secular in origin. There were winter solstice celebrations in many northern cultures long before Christianity existed. The Christian Church simply co-opted the holiday, in part to attract those pagans who already celebrated it (and many of those pagan traditions were simply transferred to Christmas). After all, they didn't have a clue what time of year Jesus was actually born. And people tend to be resistant to giving up a holiday.

    I'm an atheist, so I don't know why I'd celebrate the religious holiday. Obviously, I have no problem if other people do, as long as they don't insist that I do so as well. To my mind, it makes no more sense to insist on having Christ in Christmas than to insist otherwise. That's a matter each person must decide for himself.

    But I love Christmas, and I love the Christmas spirit. You describe it well. But what really is the source of that? As I say, most of the trimmings of a modern Christmas are secular. It's my cultural background which causes me to enjoy the season, and true, that's Christian, at least nominally. But there are many, many threads making up Christmas.

    Tell me, do you celebrate the birth of Mohammed? I doubt it. Undoubtedly, Muslims would claim that Mohammed was "the single most influential person ever." But you're not Muslim. Do you celebrate the birth of Buddha? Why not? If asked, I suspect that Buddhists would claim that he was "the single most influential person ever." But you're not Buddhist.

    You get the point? Why would you expect me to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? I'm not even sure that he existed at all, and I certainly see no reason to think that he was a god.

    Christianity has certainly had a great deal to do with our modern holiday of Christmas, absolutely. But that history includes centuries of murdering heretics. If you wanted to live, there was no other choice than to at least pretend belief. And when pagan rituals became part of the holiday, that couldn't be done openly. You were FORCED to 'keep the Christ in Christmas.'

    Not anymore. Now, we're free to decide for ourselves. I'm not going to object if Christians want to celebrate Christmas, but I expect the same consideration from them. Oh, you can think I'm wrong. Obviously, we don't have to agree. That's the whole point. But Christmas is a secular holiday for me, and I love it. Admittedly, it's become far too commercial. (Maybe we can agree about that?)

  4. Thanks for taking the time to share your views. I won't debate the issue with you. I've heard these arguments countless times before and I disagree. I don't understand at all how you can deny the history of Jesus: his birth, life, death and resurrection are indisputable facts. Neither Mohammed or Buddha were raised from the dead, and their followers don't claim that they were. Your personal response to Christ and what he said about himself and about us humans, is another matter, and I totally respect your right to reject his teaching. Merry Christmas WCG. I wish you peace and happiness. Please visit me again sometime.

    1. Indisputable facts? See, that just blows my mind. I can accept it when people say they just believe because of faith. I don't understand why they'd do that, but it's entirely up to them. But claiming that Jesus is all about "indisputable facts" is... well, it's just astonishing that anyone would make a claim like that. I can't even imagine why you'd think that.

      But that's a discussion for another time, I suppose. I don't want to be a troll here. (I welcome dissenting views on my own blog, but I must admit to being impressed you allowed a dissenting opinion here. Many Christian bloggers don't.)

      Anyway, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


  5. Late responding here, but wanted to add something. Yes, Christians must take a lot on faith, but there are many of us who have had life changing encounters with the spirit of life impacting we became believers as a result. How do you explain a heart so changed, they no longer hate and suddenly can forgive someone (who is undeserving of that love and forgiveness)? How do you explain miraculous answers to prayer, a physical or psychological healing? It happens, but I guess it could be written off as some strange coincidence or the unexplained way of the world. Happy New Year!

    1. Exactly, Sharon. There are always other explanations which don't require extraordinary assumptions. Feelings are just feelings, and they happen in every religion, not just Christianity. (Indeed, even atheists have feelings.)

      'Miraculous' answers to prayer don't hold up under scientific investigation. That sort of thing is just counting the misses, but not the hits. (If your prayer is answered, that's taken as evidence, but if it's not, the negative result is just shrugged off. If one person survives an airplane crash, that's a miracle. But all the others who died? "God works in mysterious ways.")

      The vast majority of Christians are Christian just because they were raised that way - at the very least in a Christian culture with Christian friends and relatives. Raised Muslim, they'd be just as convinced of Islam. Raised Hindu, they'd remain believers in Hinduism.

      They all feel that they're right, but believers can't even agree among themselves. No matter what religion you believe, you don't have a majority of people agreeing with you, let alone a consensus. Science, on the other hand, comes to a consensus on what's true and what isn't, because it's based on evidence, not faith.

      Happy New Year to you, too.