For Smiles and Joy, Put the Christ in Christmas
I’m writing in response to ‘Christmas: Really a Religious Holiday?’ by Eric Brunner because I believe that article slanders the Christian faith by misrepresenting Christian philosophy. I fear that by doing so, Brunner would remove that part of Christmas that makes ‘smiles, joy and happiness on this Earth possible.’
While visiting my parents for Christmas, I saw an episode of [the television show] ‘Mythbusters.’ One of the testers remarked that everyone is disappointed during the holidays. I think it is true that most people are disappointed during Christmas.
Children are disappointed because they concentrate on receiving gifts. Don’t get me wrong, gifts on Christmas can certainly be good. A child who spent the year desiring a ridiculously expensive video game system and finds it sitting under the tree experiences almost indescribable joy.
But eventually, the joy of getting gifts burns itself out. What good is a Playstation 2 when your neighbor gets a Playstation 3? How do poor, beleaguered parents who spent more than they really ought to top themselves next year? Receiving gifts is good, but somehow, they always ought to be better.
Eventually, many people focus on giving gifts. They realize that their families and friends are much more important than their iPods. But like getting gifts, families inevitably disappoint.
Maybe going home means spending time with a disliked stepparent. Maybe a member of your family is suffering from the ravages of age: dementia and ugliness. Maybe it’s been a bad year for your family and there isn’t a home to go home to. Maybe your sister just really ticks you off.
In any case, the family that you want to love will be flawed. If, like Brunner, you define a ‘warm home’ and ‘loved ones’ as the real Christmas good, you will ultimately be as disappointed as a child with a video game. There will always be some way that it ought to be better.
Christian Christmas has always been about turning the worship of goods into the worship of the one thing that is so good that nothing else can be better. Philosophers call this ultimate good God. Celebrating the winter solstice or the god Saturn is good, but it is much better to celebrate what’s best. So Christians would have you celebrate the birth of God instead.
(For the record, Christians celebrate Jesus’s suffering, death and resurrection during Lent and Easter, not Christmas). This isn’t new; St. Augustine of Hippo could have told you much the same thing in 400 A.D. Christianity does not say that ‘Man is evil, God is good.’ Christianity says that God is the ultimate good, and the only evil is the absence of God.
So how do you make Christmas the tremendous good that it promises to be? Don’t worship lesser goods such as presents or even family. Worship God. Your family will happily go to church together and share presents to celebrate something much better than anything they could be on their own.
Samuel A. Danziger,
Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
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