What Christmas Means to Me

I like Christmas. A lot. I like setting out my nativity, putting up my tree (okay, trees plural), and lighting up the inside of my house like Clark Griswold lit up the outside of his. I like Christmas so much that I listen to Christmas songs year-round so long as the lyrics celebrate Christ’s birth, which for the Christian is what Christmas really means.

But there is a season that precedes Christmas—that precedes the remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ—and that season is called Advent (from the Latin word for “coming”). Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and focuses on Christ’s “coming,” which was foretold in the Old Testament and was realized when God the Son (Jesus Christ) came in the flesh at Bethlehem. More than this, Advent points to Christ “coming to us” daily through His Word (the Bible) and points as well to His “second coming” in the future (what Christians refer to as the Last Day or the end of time). In short, Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation of Christ’s coming, and it ushers in the Christmas Season, which begins on the evening of Christmas Eve and continues through the second Sunday after Christmas Day.

Many people, Christians included, adopt different ways of celebrating this time of year. Tree. No tree. Gifts. No gifts. Santa Claus. No Santa Claus. Et cetera. Et cetera.

What’s a person to do?  What’s a person to think?

Recently, I came upon an interesting quote by C.S. Lewis. He’s the famed author of The Chronicles of Narnia and of well-known works such as Mere Christianity and The Four Loves.  He says this in his essay on “What Christmas Means to Me”:

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.[1]

This may be worth pondering as we consider the coming Christmas Season.

[1] God in the Dock–Essays on Theology and Ethics.  C. S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. © 1970 The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, first appearing December, 1957

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