Yes, and now would be the time to do it, seeing as no other religious holiday has the cultural influence and outright dominance of Christmas. The supposed war between "secularists" (since when is that such a dirty word?) and Christians is not helped, in my opinion, by this latest of bishops' editorials being featured in the Telegraph -[ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/12/24/do2401.xml
]- and just to get it straight, I'm a person who values the spiritual nature of Christmas, as well as its social significance. Not commercial
-- social. Every holiday that makes it from ancient times into the modern social calendar has reasons for persisting that transcend whatever proprietary stamp a religion has placed upon it...in winter, most of us with any skill of observation have noted that there is a thematic emphasis of light overcoming/emerging out of darkness at the darkest time of the year, and that there's a very human emphasis on sharing, gift-giving, socializing and showing concern for others -- however it has evolved, there it is.[I often refer to things like that as a Casablanca effect, cf. that movie's uncalculated and haphazard almost-by-chance development into a classic that now can hardly be imagined otherwise.]
It's great to be able to go to church and feel uplifted and inspired and think about great significance in the story of Jesus' birth and all its signs and wonders. But I deplore the way that the organized religious camp has aligned itself in conspiracy-theorism against the whole supposed commercial-secular camp (it's really just commercial and trying to maximize return/minimize risk), leaving very little room for that which is spiritual but not loud and demanding in its cause, and which embraces ecumenical-or-agnostic circumspection and tolerance in regard to others without being centered around materialistic Santa-ism and economic competition. That is why A Christmas Carol
remains so meaningful to me, because it comes out of a non-paranoid sense that Christianity in practice meant (or ought to mean) humanism rather than dogmatism. If the "Christian virtues" are not being practised through spreading peace, goodwill, comfort and joy throughout the community and general populace, then what use is there atall in arguing about the propriety of Nativity scenes or Christmas trees on public display and what to say to shoppers in a store? These things are petty.
So, though, is the naive attitude from the bishopric that because Christmas happens to be the culturally dominant winter holiday in the West, that its particular story and theologies need to be expounded to the general population in clerical commentaries ex cathedra
, as if this were not just (on the one side) a season of crucial shopping days but also of chances to fish for otherwise-lost souls from the pulpit of the public newspapers. There is enough reason in the intrinsic
social values of Christmas that hammering the story and all its underpinnings into people's heads is a bit unnecessary, and even damaging to the cause of religion's credibility in the general social arena. Rather like goodnaturedly saying that everyone's honorarily Irish on St. Paddy's day, it is an extension of assumed superiority that can easily backfire because it dismisses everything not-Christian so very lightly. We are not all Irish on March 17; we are not all Christian on December 25 -- though in the latter case, we should certainly treat each other as well
as if there were no barriers of religion or philosophy to separate us -- or wealth, or worldly rank, or any of the things that get used as excuses to separate "us" from "them".
Ebenezer Scrooge didn't hasten to church post-conversion on his lifechanging Christmas; neither did the Grinch, actually, nor even George Bailey -- and he'd been visited by an angel, gosh-darn-golly! But the humanistic values that are shown in their fictional stories are more important to me in 'the real meaning of Christmas' than someone sporting a button or a bumper sticker that says "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" (*gag*) or the like and raising money by their fervor for the AFA. Take the "season" and live it well with the best that's in you.....don't get all hung up over whether people accent the "Christ" in "Christmas" enough to your liking or not, or if the carols are "too religious" to be used in a school choir concert. Get past that; see each other instead. Jesus would want it that way, dammit, whether you're fixated on remembering him or not.
There, that's my sermon for Christmas Eve....if I get moody tonight I may post more, possibly quite a bit more....
As a leaven and a chaser (though I'm sure I'd mentioned it last year?), there is the old story of how Sir Thomas Massey was arguing in favour of changing "Christmas" to "Christ-tide" to eliminate 'Papist' language from the calendar and English culture; he had to stand down amidst laughter when another MP challenged him to reciprocally change his name to "Sir Tom-tide Tidey".....
Pax vobiscum, mes amari
*lighting Yule log and passing the wassail bowl....*