Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I REALLY don't like Christmas

OK, I was going to hold off on this until December, but certain people have called me out, so here it is.

I hate Christmas -- that's right, I hate Christmas -- not the commercialization (although that stinks, too), I truly, genuinely, down to my bones hate Christmas.

To help you understand this, I'm posting a copy of a piece that ran in the local newspaper last year -- and this is the "nice" version (I still have the original piece I wrote which is a little harsher -- OK, much harsher).

Anyhow, here's the nice version -- feel free to post whatever comments you wish about what a mean, awful, terrible person I am...

Why Christmas?

Confessions of a self-professed Grinch

By Ken Grant

Every December, when that great song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" comes on, my kids demand that I turn up the radio so they can sing – or gleefully scream – the lyrics at me.

Grinch, Scrooge, the Anti-Claus, take your pick of titles – I gladly wear them all.

I honestly do not like Christmas, I do not enjoy any aspect of it, and I'm finding that more and more people are admitting that they're not all that thrilled with it, either.

I can already hear the cries of heresy coming from faithful Christians and even not-so-faithful-but-we-show-up-for-church-twice-a-year types alike. But, if we take a moment to look at the origins of Christmas, we might find that the truly Christian thing to do might be to shift our focus to something more substantive and meaningful every December.

Nowhere in scripture are Christians commanded to celebrate the birth of Christ. I challenge anyone to find a scriptural reference to the First Century Church celebrating Christmas. In fact, two of the four canonized gospels don't even mention the birth of Jesus.

By contrast, the followers of Christ are admonished to observe two things: Communion and Baptism. All other feasts, festivals, and observances are entirely optional (see Colossians 2:16).

So, when did we start this Christmas tradition? Allow me to quote from George W. Cornell:
For more than 300 years after Jesus' time, Christians didn't celebrate his birth. The observance began in fourth century Rome, timed to coincide with a mid-winter pagan festival honoring the pagan gods Mithra and Saturn. The December date was simply taken over to commemorate Jesus' birth, since its exact date isn't known. Consequently, the fusion of the sacred and the profane characterized the celebration from the start.

The reality is that celebrating new life following the winter solstice is something that's been done for some time – much more than 2,000 years. Switching the celebration from Ra the Egyptian sun-god, Adonis the Syrian god, Mithras the Persian sun-god, and any number of Norse gods (Oden being the most prevalent) to the birth of Christ seemed to have occurred almost seamlessly – in fact, nearly EVERYTHING that we associate with the Christmas tradition (evergreen trees, holy, lights, candles, etc.) can be traced back to one or more of these pagan origins.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know how ministers go through this every year. Let's think about this for a moment. The average minister has 52 Sundays a year to teach, to preach, to explore the deep and rich mysteries of scripture found throughout the Bible. Out of those 52 Sundays, the minister is forced by tradition to focus on a small handful of passages for at least four of those Sundays every year – re-hashing the same themes year after year after year.

And again, this is for something that really has very little to do with the crux of Christianity . I challenge anyone to show me where Peter preached about the importance of the birth of Christ. How about an epistle from Paul where he explains to a growing church the need to have a manger scene set up by the second week of December?

The message of Christ is profound – he did not call his disciples to look at his baby pictures . He told his followers to pick up their crosses and follow him to death. Paul tells us that presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is our reasonable act of worship. Peter's sermon at Pentecost focused exclusively on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Again, the two practices Christians are ordered to observe – baptism and communion – are symbols of sacrifice, death, and resurrection – not of incarnation and birth.

Of course, it makes sense for just about anyone to be more comfortable focusing time and attention on a harmless, cute baby than to deal with the man who calls you to sacrifice your pride and your ego to follow him to an uncertain future.

I am not advocating that everyone quit celebrating Christmas. But I am asking for two things. First, figure out what it is you are celebrating and why you are celebrating it. If it's just tradition or a warm, fuzzy feeling, that's OK – just be honest about it. Second, please don't tell me that I "must" celebrate with you.

By the way, the kids don't seem to mind the fact that their father is a Grinch.

21 comments:

James said...

I agree on some levels with you, Ken, but I don't think we should throw out the portion of scripture that deals with Christ's birth. If your pastor is spending 4 weeks on it, that's just too long. Our pastor last year just seemed to tweak the series we were in to touch on the nativity and how it applied to the topic we'd already been doing for like six weeks. But we do seem to spend more time in a given year (re)learning the Christmas story than we do about the resurrection or the great commission. And the commercialization that you didn't mention adds to it--crĂȘches everywhere but no empty tombs at Easter. You make valid points--we focus too much on the pretty baby than we do the mission we were charged to complete here.

(I've wanted to put a baby Jesus on a cross as some kind of artistic statement around this time of year, just to remind people of why the Christ came to earth.)

James said...

I had a couple of other thoughts...
1. The goodwill part of Christmas--the feeling we sing about that we wish would last the whole year--isn't that bad. I don't think anyone will deny that.
2. The Bible doesn't sanction a holiday to give thanks to God, but we kinda do that on Thanksgiving. (Not that we even have that right--I've been reading alot lately about how we have that story completely wrong.) The Jehovah's Witnesses would agree that neither are Christian.

Ken said...

First, I realize that I'm fighting a losing battle here -- and my goal really isn't to put an end to the celebration of Christmas -- rather I'm hoping people will take a moment to really think about what they believe and what they celebrate.

That being said, part of the reason for this rant is to get everyone to recognize that you don't have to celebrate this holiday in order to be a Christian -- or an American. You would be amazed at how people react when I tell them that I don't like Christmas. I could tell them that I've committed horrible, violent crimes and people would probably react more positively than they do when I share my views on Christmas.

As far as the goodwill part goes -- well, let's face it, people are either going to exercise goodwill or they aren't -- I have yet to see a single example of that lasting past 8:45 AM on Dec. 26. Personally, I'd rather have people be consistent all year than fake the "nice" thing every December.

I guess the real question for me is, why can't anyone be OK with someone who simply doesn't want to celebrate this holiday? Why is there a concerted effort to "convert" the person into a Christmas lover?

James said...

Please know that I'm completely okay with you not liking Christmas, not celebrating it like the rest of the country, and taking the stand that you do.

I pulled out a book I bought at an after Christmas sale last year that I was saving to read this time of year--(Stories behind the Traditions of Christmas--which was published by Zondervan but is refreshingly broad-minded and explains things without bias). In the introduction it goes into a long history of the celebrations in December and how Jesus is not actually the reason for the season as we so boldly pronounce. (I'll be blogging about it on Horizontal Fall).) Like you said in your rant, the feast days are optional, and certainly not sacred (in the sense that God would or wouldn't be disappointed with you if you celebrated them or not).

With the popularity of The Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories (movies, TV specials, etc.), our culture has established the moré that not celebrating Christmas is evil. That's why you won't get many people approving of your choice.

The book I referred to has an interesting history of Advent, too, and how the candles initially represented three things: God at nativity, God in your heart, and God's second coming; the emphasis was on the eventual second coming, but that got mixed around and centered on Jesus' birth.

Perhaps focusing so much on the nativity and not nearly as much on the resurrection or second coming is akin to leaving Christ on the cross in Catholic churches, or akin to some Christians view of what their role in the church is—too much emphasis on the past and not enough emphasis on what the future is and what our current role in it is.

Some of my previous points were just to play devil's advocate; any time some one is able to examine the evidence and make an informed decision about any subject—including the celebration of Christmas—that decision needs to be respected. It's commendable and, no matter which side you pick on whatever the issue, sets you apart from those who mindlessly follow the crowd/tradition. (That being said, please consider our forthcoming Christmas card as a just-thinking-about-you card and not an encouragement to partake in any particular festivities.)

Ken said...

Ah, you've touched on another aspect that I didn't include in my rant -- many people don't realize that if it weren't for Dickens and a few others (Queen Victoria, Thomas Nast, etc.) the celebration of Christmas would be no more than a quaint little observance by a handful of people, not the huge fiasco it is today.

Yes, I accept all cards, greetings, and well-wishes in the spirit in which they are sent -- and don't be surprised when you get a card from our family and a message of good-will from me (but pay close attention to the words I write in the card).

anyone else care to chime in on the discussion?

Anonymous said...

I notice that you continue to use the word "Christmas". It's not about celebrating "Christmas" it's about celebrating CHRIST! Do you celebrate your birthday or the birthday of a family member or friend? Why? For me it is usually the acknowledgment of someone (usually someone I l love) that entered this world and has had an impact on my life. I wouldn't worry about how or why other people celebrate, I would focus on why and how you should celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Maybe with all the bell ringing and the songs we could pray that this during this season someone would turn thier life over to Christ. Please read: Philippians 1: 1-18 meditate (15-18)

dave said...

Ken,

I would say that celebrating the birth of Jesus may not be mandatory, but it is not without merit. First, Christmas should be distinguished as an observance/celebration and NOT a sacrament. This being said, a religious observance and a sacrament share something in common. Both signify and remind the partaker of a spiritually significant event.

Althoug the birth of Jesus is not the direct event that is credited for salvation and forgiveness, without the miracle of the human incarnation of God, the crucifixion would be meaningless in that regard. The Birth of the Christ child is both a miracle and a spiritually significant event.

Do we HAVE to celebrate Christmas? The answer is no. Is there anything wrong with celebrating Christmas? The is answer is no. Unfortunately, what December 25 has to do with any of the above is a mystery to me (other than its pagan roots). In conclusion there is but one thing left to be said, "Christmas . . . BAH . . . HUMBUG!

Ken said...

I love the interaction that's occurring here -- and one of the things I find myself re-discovering is the need we probably all have to take a close look at our traditions, rituals, and even our beliefs. All traditions, rituals, beliefs, celebrations, etc. can be very good things when they point to the deeper meaning -- but when they exist simply for their own sake -- well, maybe it's time to re-evaluate.

Allow me to re-iterate again, I am not condemning anyone for celebrating this holiday for whatever reason they choose -- I'm just asking that we not make this celebration a litmus test for one's faith.

Let the comments continue!...

Konrad said...

I feel Christianity is a spiritual journey that parallels the life of Christ. Stage 1 is learning the fundamentals, which parallels with the 12 year old Jesus amazing church leaders with His knowledge of church doctrine. Stage 2 is "the pointing finger of the Old Testament prophets" phase which parallels Jesus' later challenges to break away from self-serving religion and false piety. Stage 3 is the surrender stage that parallels Jesus on the cross. Jesus was born and there was euphoria and that also parallels a portion of the spiritual life-- many remember the beginning of their spiritual journey as a Christmas-like euphoria. There are many other stages further down the road, but there is that initial stage of Christmas-like euphoria... and I for one do support it very heartily, not so much for myself, but rather, for those who are at that stage in their spiritual life, such as, perhaps a young child or perhaps a desperate and hurting adult on the verge of a spiritual awakening.
Just my humble opinion...

Denise Saxon said...

I'm a baptized Christian yet I consider myself to be completely non-Denominational...I have yet to try on a religion I feel "fits" me and who I am. I posted Ken's letter on my blog last year and I agree with him to great lengths...However, I also enjoy Christmas time, or the parts I allow past my own filter. I hate that there is Christmas stuff out in November, I hate the commercials indicating what parent's need to do for their kids or else they are bad parents. I hate the indication that boyfriends and husbands need to buy BMW's and diamonds for their spouse in order to keep their interest, etc, etc...I hate all that.
What I do enjoy is the decorations, and the lights and the holiday concerts and the food and the fact that even people who have a hard time getting along on any sort of consistent basis will make the attempt to get along for at least one day. Sometimes that's the best you can expect. I enjoy the "feeling" of Christmas. My family doesn't practice much religion and my Aunt is a Jehovah witness. This made a lot of trouble because after Grandma died they stopped coming to our Christmas eve celebration...it made a lot of rift that still goes on to some extent today, 15 years later. The dumb thing about it is that we never viewed it as what it really is: the celebration of the birth of Christ, we viewed it as a day the family actually all got together, ate, drank and had a good time. That's what made her separation from the family celebration so difficult for everybody.

I guess what I'm saying is that in a lot of ways I do agree with Ken or I never would have posted it to my blog, BUT I also will continue to enjoy walking my dogs around my neighborhood to see everybody's Christmas lights. I will enjoy eggnog and sugar cookies. I will enjoy hanging out by the Santa pictures booth watching the little kids get their pictures taken. I will enjoy setting up my Christmas tree and looking at it in the evenings when it's all lit up. I will enjoy holiday dinners with friends, and picking out gifts I think people will enjoy and watching them open them. I will continue to enjoy receiving gifts. Anybody who says they don't like presents is mostly a big liar. :-)AND I will continue to enjoy watching total strangers smile at each other and wish each other Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Maybe it would be nice if that could happen all year round, but at least it happens for a little while 1 time per year. And THAT is my take on it.

Denise:-)

macromab said...

I challenge you to find any references to the Church fathers celebrating Thanksgiving and Halloween. Or Flag day. So there.

Interestingly, Jesus celebrated a special holiday during the season -Hanukkah (John 10:22). I bet there were some people who complained about that. After all, show me where Moses celebrated Hanukkah.

Ken said...

@macromab - First, I commend you for pointing out the Hanukkah example, not many people are aware that is what was being referenced in John 10.

Please note that my primary point here is not to convince everyone that they shouldn't celebrate Christmas. I have no problem with people celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Flag Day, Groundhog Day, or even Pi Day (I really like Pi Day).

The issue for me is that those who celebrate Christmas expect EVERYONE ELSE to celebrate it with them - and for many, they consider non-celebration to be an affront to their faith. I'm simply trying to get people to understand that Christmas is not synonymous with Christian.

Thanks for keeping the discussion going.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Ken. Everybody spends money to buy useless gifts their relatives don't need anyway and they have to buy you a gift you don't need. Why don't we just keep the money and buy ourselves what we want and need. That would make us more happy. On the other hand this tradition gives people jobs because we buy stuff like christmas cards or decorations. It helps some people make money so they can use our services directly or indirectly. It all comes back to us. I don't see anything in Christmas that could make you a better man. Like you said yourself the everyday life shows if we are good people or not. So what that we give eachother gifts every December? How does it make us better people? We do it because everybody does it and it is expected. I wish you a peaceful Christmas and good gifts. LOL
Victor

Marcel said...

Do not spend money to Christmas stuff. It is too expensive, and you will never use it. Commercial crap it is.

The easterbunny also doesnt like christmas

yagwit said...

I do not like Christmas. I dont lik the clutter, extra work decorating, spending money on gift. Id rather not receive gifts either. I have to fake it for my kids sake. I'd rather skip the hassle, get some sleep for once, then wake refreshed enough to complete my massive list of chores. We could also use the Christmas vacation to study for future subjects. I suggested the work ahead idea, yeah hub hated it. He grew up with huge Christmases surrounded by loved ones. I was also drug to relatives homes but I didnt like any of them.
To me the entire event is so fake. I wish people would stop buying my kids gifts because they jjust break them to pieces. I'm constantly picking up expensive dismantled items. A savings bond would benefit them more. Thanks to everyone I know for teaching them greed. My practical attitude isnt fun which leaves me ignored and frustrated. I love my children; please dont assume my feelings for a holiday extends to them. I just want to stop wasting time, energy,and money on nonsense. I guess I'm the grinch.

Anonymous said...

But I keep coming back to the fact that:
Jesus never celebrated his birth.
Jesus’ family never celebrated his birth
The disciples never celebrated his birth
The Apostles never celebrated his birth
The New Testament church never celebrated his birth
The Bible never commands us to celebrate his birth
Jesus was not born on December 25
The date has pagan origins

Debra Winchell said...

I have a lot of difficulty at Christmas time because the media and the stores are always pushing the ideal Christmas. I haven't had one yet. My so-called Christian friends tend to forget about me outside of scheduled events. So do my relatives. I can't help it if I'm a single, intelligent woman without children. We fall off everyone's radar. I don't like Christmas because so many people are Christian hypocrits.

Debra Winchell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MySpace.com/pascaledouchain said...

I just, simply do not like Christmas, the whole thing! don't care about christ, or no christ! i simply do not like all the fuss! leave me alone, please... i am a 'normal' adult woman, having a nice ordinary life, with lovely friends and family, normal, and nice, and i still do not like ....mas!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken

Nice to have found your blog and a place to rant! lol I have my girlfriend very pissed off right now because i went an opened my big fat mouth about my feelings toward this sham of a holiday. I'm so glad to know there are others out there who can see sense. I'm really sorry i blabbed in the first place but also quite annoyed at her for making this such a big issue and a dangerous deal breaker to our relationship. Granted couples can be very opposite in their interests but it really goes to show how much you know someone. I consider my self more spiritual and take it seriously and i fond nothing the least bit spiritual in this holiday. I tried putting to her all the things you've mentioned, never mind the commercialism, and you really get a sense of brainwashing that we can be put through and come to call it our values and beliefs!!? when she acknowledged it and went on telling me that she will still enjoy celebrating it for the good cheer and present giving etc, etc. It didn't even work out for me to get her a decent present never mind wrap it up with all the hours i worked over this xmas. I guess its really just the stress and anxiety that it all creates that in no way warrents it a day to celebrate, and indeed celebrate what exactly! Round two of talks are in order between us so i can put to her that i don't mind how or what she celebrates it for and i'm happy for her to do that..sigh..here's hoping i'll have a relationship still afterward. Thank you once again, FAKE-mas.

Anonymous said...

I have had really bad Christmases and great Christmases. I am at the stage in life where I could not care less about it. My husband usually spends the day in front of the television, no matter how hard I cook, clean, shop, and prepare. It's a waste, except for remembering the birth of Christ. Usually, I find a little spark somewhere along the way to give me some spirit. Something as simple as your radio playing readings of old stories that we somehow managed to miss growing up, now that is special. I do believe Christmas is necessary, if nothing else, old folks get visitors and gifts to make them feel remembered. I no longer receive gifts from hubby, nor do I give to him. Sometimes we just have to look outside our own little world to get any satisfaction from the season. It takes effort, but can be rewarding if we just plan ahead and look for things about the season that spark our interest.