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Christ for the Nations

Flags of countries struck by coronavirus projected onto Rio's Christ the  Redeemer

Our Jewish neighbors can refer to us, the non-Jewish, as the “goy”. “Goy” is short for the Hebrew word, “goyim”, which means the “nations”. The Greek New Testament word for the nations is “ethne”, from which comes “ethnic”. The Latin word for the nations is “gentium”, from which comes the English synonym for “goyim”: the Gentiles. One of the features of this WordPress site in the dashboard is to see daily which country, on a map of the world. where each of you have who has viewed this blog for a posting, your country of origin. In the Lord, this is awe-some. The reign of the Lord, His Kingdom, is in every country, not to topple secular governments, but as a witness to the Lord for all governments. Truly, it is reflective of the Gentiles which is most of us reading this posting. Truly, in Christ Jesus, the Word of God has come forth from Zion and the Gospel, according to our Lord’s command and promised is preached and taught to the ends of the earth. The Word of God is the miracle of tongues. The Gentiles are aptly part of the last of the 7 Great O Antiphons:

O Emmanuel, our King and our Lord,/the anointed for the nations and their Savior:/ come and save us, O Lord our God.

I opine that when the Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized by Phillip, then Ethiopia was in a sense saved…and sure enough, there are millions of Christians in that country, for 2,000 years, many of whom are Lutherans: in fact, according to Wikipedia, there are 10 million Ethiopian Lutherans which is three times the number of Lutherans in the USA! And the worship of the Lord by the nations was first manifested when magi, pagan astrologers, the goyim, came to worship the Child.

The universality of sin is met by the universality of God’s grace appearing this Eve in His Son, born of the blessed Virgin, of the House of David, of the people of Israel, God’s chosen. This gift keeps on giving to the 4 corners of the world. He has borne the sins of the nations, the ethne, the goyim so we are re-born as His.

In the many tongues of man, the greeting Merry Christmas, conveys the Joy of the Savior to you all.

Merry Christmas In Different Languages Forming A Christmas Tree Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 22291935.
I DO NOT THINK THERE ARE ANY OF THE LANGUAGES OF AFRICA ABOVE! IF YOUR LANGUAGE IS NOT THERE, PLEASE GIVE THE CHRISTMAS GREETING IN YOUR LANGUAGE IN THE COMMENTS!

For years now, the perennial number 1 posting during Advent here has been “The Meaning of the Advent Candles”‘. So many want to know their meaning. Do they stand for Joy, Peace etc.? I have suggested in at least two postings a meaning. Now, in the waning hours of Advent, as we await sunset, and the evening of Christmas, I will reveal THE Meaning of the Advent Candles.

I read in the most recent edition of The Lutheran Witness (December), something I did not know:

“The Advent wreath began as a devotional practice in the 19th Century by the Ref. Johann Wichern. He used the Advent wreath as a way for children to count the days leading to Christmas. His Advent wreath had 24 candles instead of four candles.”

Over time, the 24 candles were whittled down to 4 candles for the 4 weeks of the Advent Season. I bet the suspense is killing you! So, what is the meaning of the 4 Advent candles? Answer: Time. Do I hear a thud out there? I kind of had a thud when I learned the Advent candles are not a centuries old tradition! Lutheran pastor Rev. Wichern originally had 24 candles as at least a countdown to the celebration of the birth of our Savior. This has devolved into secular Advent Calendars which have some treat for each day for the day when Santa brings gifts:

The Best Chocolate Advent Calendars of 2020 - Dark and Milk Chocolate  Calendars for Christmas

The Advent candles mean time…and this has meaning. The Lord our God is the God of history, of time. He invented time, not Stephen Hawking! The Advent Candles marking time can remind us that the Lord fully entered into history, our history from the womb to the tomb and in Him Incarnate, Emmanuel ‘God with us’, to bear our sin and be our Savior. The candles mark quite a time!

Meme of the Week

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Collect of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Appointed Scripture Readings for this day: 

Judge 6:  36-40 Psalm 139: 1-12 Romans 10: 8b-15 St. John 1:  35-42a

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection on St. Thomas and this Verse:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. St. John 20: 29

We may think that our Lord’s only Beatitudes are those recorded in St. Matthew 5 at the  beginning of His Sermon on the Mount.  No, beatitudes are throughout the Gospels including this one to Thomas and us all.  In a sense, Thomas was privileged in his doubt to be an example of the maxim “seeing is believing”.  But our Lord’s beatitude directs us to the more Biblical understanding of the centrality of the Word of God:  hearing is believing. Jesus spoke the Word and pointed to His wounds.  This opened Thomas’ ears and so his heart to seize in faith the Lord.  Thomas’ confession, My Lord and my God, became a Scriptural foundation of the Nicene Creed:  “I believe …in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God”.   What a transformation!  The Lord so changed Thomas from one who did not trust his fellow apostles’ message, to one who then did so believe. 

The Apostles, like Thomas, all witnessed to Jesus Christ.  When we think of a witness the picture of a court room comes to mind.  Giving witness to prove or disprove a person’s innocence or guilt.  In fact, “witness” is all throughout the Levitical laws about civil cases.  Kind of negative, even dark, yet a necessary negative in a fallen world. There is another witness:  to the light (St. John 1: 7-8).

Sometimes when  a Christian give his “witness” to Jesus, it can be forced and that puts a negative twist on his “witness”.  I thought it might be good to find a different word for “witness”. So, I looked for synonyms for “witness”, “eye-witness” came up, but we have never physically seen Jesus, yet one day we will. Another synonym was listed: “earwitness”. We are ear-witnesses.  Only the evangelist John tells us what Jesus said to doubting Thomas:   “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  And again, “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We have heard the Word of Christ and the Holy Spirit has written that Word into us heart, soul and mind for faith.  We speak of what we have heard, spoken what has been preached, taught and lived by so many as truthfully attested in Scriptures.

Why witness to the light of the Lord incarnate? I was shopping this past week in Lexington and in one store, with hand towels with sayings on them, there was this:  “I Meditate, I do Yoga, I Chant…and I still want to smack someone.” We’re all there and so was Jesus bearing the entirety of evil in His body and soul for you and for me. We so need Him for our sanctification. When John Paul the II visited communist Cuba in 1998, when the  communist tyrant Fidel Castro was still ruling, there was an editorial cartoon showing Castro and the Pope holding his staff with a crucifix.  Castro is holding an unlit cigar and he is asking the Pope, “Got a light?” and the Pope is smiling pointing to the Crucifix.  We have a light as the Light first shown in us through His Word to us and for us, for Thomas and his brother Apostles and the holy women and the apostolic succession of witnesses with the Bible in the one hand and the other hand pointing to the Lamb of God, as did Phillip for the Ethiopian eunuch, to Isaiah 53 (Acts 8: 26-40).

John the Baptist was a “witness about the light” (John 1: 7-8).  As apt description for the 12 as well. I think John and Thomas are models for us as witnesses of the kingdom, of the King, of the Christ.  In this dark, moonless night, it makes no sense not to use the flashlights in our hands (Fr. Hans Urs von Balthassar). Maybe we can point someone else home.  And we need each other as the Body of Christ in Christ, our head, so that we can encourage each as we see the Day approaching: Behold! “Light from Light”:  My Lord and my God!

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The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil. An octave is literal 8 days.  From the earliest time of the Church 8 is considered significant: 7 days of the creation, then on the 1st Day of the Week, the 8th day, the new creation:  Christ is risen!

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: 

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

 O Adonai (O Lord)

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

O Clavis David (O Key of David)

O Oriens (O Rising Sun)

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)

 O Emmanuel (God with us)

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai,Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.  

Notably, the Great O Antiphons are the basis of the great Advent Hymn: O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

THE FIRST O ANTIPHON:

Latin: O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

English: O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence

THE WELCOME BLOG | St. Patrick's Cathedral – 15 Top Secrets of a Landmark

If we were to build a church sanctuary, say, out of bricks, all the thousands of bricks have to be fit into each other by a master mason. The mason carefully uses mortar for a strong and good wall. He uses a plumb line to make sure the walls are level.  The building also has a cornerstone upon which it is built and a sound foundation.  Now let’s say, someone comes along and says church buildings don’t matter.  He says that each brick is the church and all those bricks don’t need to be with each other to be a church building.   He stops the church from being built.  The bricks are scattered far and wide.  Do we still have then a church building?  Hardly. A church building is an apt metaphor, symbol, and  representation of the Church, the Body of Christ. “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2: 5).   

The living stones are together, being built, with the mortar of Christ’s blood, upon and with each other. The living stones belong to each as we belong to Christ and Christ belongs to the Father.  A church building is a great space for the spiritual house of the Lord to gather.

Recently, the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam took it upon himself to give a theological lecture to Christians:

“This year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building?” the governor asked. “For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers. Worship with a mask on is still worship. Worship outside or worship online is still worship.

The Governor’s question is akin to asking, what is truly most important your family or your house? Well, family, of course…but having a house, an apartment, a building, surely is also a good thing. It’s not good to be homeless.  The desire at this time of the year at Christmas is to come home:  gathered in a safe place.  

Back to the Governor’s comments:  In other words, it’s okay for the bricks, the living stones to be off by themselves.  Yes, we can pray wherever we are and the Lord commands us to pray and promises He hears wherever and whenever we are.  Yet,  important thing is worship in a building so the body of Christ needs to be together (it’s ghoulish to think of the body of Christ, like a human body, being so severed into its body parts!).  Church buildings are great for such because they’re designed for corporate worship and there is 2,000 years of history of such gathering in church buildings. 

It is historically true that the early Christians, the fellowship of believers, from the get-go of the Church, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles, gathered into buildings.  At first, the spiritual house gathered in someone’s home, called house churches. They knew they had to be together to receive God’s gifts to them as Christ Jesus had promised.  They knew the Lord gathered them together ((Acts 2:1; Acts 2: 42-47;  Hebrews 10:24-26) ).  These Christians did not stay at home as isolated bricks. Just think: They gathered together during their 24/7 workdays with no day of rest, no first amendment rights, and they faced persecution from verbal ridicule to legal murder.  They would meet together before going to work in the morning, and sometimes at great risk. This is how much they knew they had to gather. Further, this nation was founded by so many Christians who came to these shores for religious freedom and did so at great risk crossing the North Atlantic in wood sailing ships.  They weren’t allowed to gather in the Old Country, but here they could.  They risked their lives for the religious freedom to come together. Are we Christians today willing to risk our lives and our sacred honor to meet in the Lord’s Name?

I do not think the Governor has the intention of being anti-Christian, but as well-intentioned as the Governor may be to protect us from covid (which most of us are capable of doing without government intrusion), he gives a false choice between building and Church,  and so his comments deserve a “red flag”. 

It is the central aim of anti-Christian zealots and tyrants to get Christians away from each other and the Word of God (and many Christians have done this on their own), so they do not gain strength from each other and from the Lord in their midst (St. Matthew 18  ). I do not think that Governor Northam is an anti-Christian zealot, but such zealotry can begin from seemingly small things. 

There seems to be three tactics of totalitarian/ atheist regimes do to kill Christianity which is separating “the bricks”:

  1. Destroying church buildings: When the Russian Communists came into power, they began destroying church buildings. A dictatorial regime destroys church buildings, as the Chinese Communists have done. The atheistic Communists targeted church buildings. They went after church sanctuaries after all you can worship anywhere! But they also know Christians are strengthened by being with other.
  2. Going after Christians:  Right along with the confiscation and destruction of church buildings is outlawing and/or restricting Christians gathering together at all, in any building.  These regimes can decree these are illegal gatherings because they are not focused on the aims of the regime in question. It’s not healthy for the State and the collective.
  3. Unite Christianity with alien/pagan ideologies:  the dictator of China, Xi Jinpiang decreed his image replace that of Jesus. the Nazis put swastikas on Christians Altars

Now, Governor Northam, is not close to those tactics, but the logical outcome of his theological interpretation could follow with ever increasing oppressive tactics, “The snowball effect”.  Oh, you may say, this is alarmist.  Yes, it is!  As I have seen now the snowball effect.  For instance, what’s so bad with divorce, was the discussion in the 60s.  What’s wrong with a couple living together before marriage?  Note this snowballed to today when we have girls and boys have themselves genetically  and physical mutilated in “transitioning”. People now wonder, How did we get to this point?  There is a history and it begins with what seemed to be harmless and ‘nice’. And nice is the enemy of the good (Pr. Louis A. Smith).

A very important Biblical doctrine of the Church that confessional Lutherans point out is, contra to the Governor: the primary thing Christians don’t do together is pray and worship!  Huh?!, you may say.  It is one thing we do but not the main course. The confessional German word for the worship service is “Gottesdienst”, “God’s Service” which means not primarily our service to God, but His Service to us:  giving us in the means of grace (Baptism and Holy Communion) and through the preaching and teaching of the Bible, the blessings of His forgiveness, which is life and salvation of His Word and that is the main course.  When our Lord said where two or three are together, this is recorded in St. Matthew which is the Lord’s Sermon on forgiveness. Forgiveness is corporate, from “Corpus”, body, and this is yet another reason confessional Lutherans (and others) need to come together. In Christ, His peace and forgiveness, we are being built up and together as His people.

One more point: In terms of the Lutheran doctrine of the two Kingdoms, as Mollie Hemmingway,  correspondent and commentator on Fox, said about the Governor:  he is not a theologian in chief.  Being a theologian is above a Governor’s pay grade. The Governor is obviously not building up the Church, but in a ‘nice’ way has the effect to pull it apart.  Contrary to the 1st Amendment, the Governor can even be accused by his advice of trying to establish another religions, which is a revision of the ersatz Christian religion of the old “I can worship God on the golf course” religion. The Governor does not have the calling as an elected official to offer his commentary in the way any religion should function.  He shows he does not know and so appreciate the separation of Church and state.

The true Church is public in buildings for the public and Christ’s people.  It has been a target as 20th and 21st century history shows us again and again.  It has to be. Pr. Bonhoeffer preached this sermon on the very day the Nazis had decreed national church elections.  The Sermon is called “The Church Election Sermon“. The Nazis wanted their own in positions of leadership in the Church and so take it over. This was Pr. Bonhoeffer’s last sermon in Berlin, and it was a time of a crucial political and religious question put before the German electorate by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer’s Young Reformation students campaigned for the opposing candidates under the motto:  “Church must remain church.” Herr Hitler took to the airwaves in a radio speech that day and the Nazis’ measures won by two-thirds of the vote for the ‘German Christians’.    On July 23, 1933 at Trinity Church in Berlin, as the churches were being watched and invaded by the Nazis, and his text was St. Matthew 16:13-18.where the Lord states that He will build(!) His Church upon the continuing confession of St. Peter:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”   This quote below attests to the public nature of Christ’s Calling to the Church.

“Here in the midst of human opinions and views, something quite new suddenly becomes visible. Here God’s name is named, here the eternal is pronounced, here the mystery is recognized. Here is no longer human opinion, but precisely the opposite, here is divine revelation and confession of faith. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church.”

We pray and we need so to confess Christ in these dark days:

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

Concordia Theological Seminary Lectionary Podcast, Advent 4 – Series B – The Gospel: St. Luke 1:26-38 taught by Dr. Arthur Just Jr.

Lectionary Podcast – Advent 3 – Series B – Epistle with Dr. Charles Gieschen: Epistle for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, 13 December

St. John Damascene! | Catholic saints, Mary catholic, True faith

John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymn writer (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from  previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praise of the risen Lord, and so that by the power the resurrection we also attain the joys of eternal life;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reflection:  If you have ever been in an eastern Orthodox Church, especially during the Divine Liturgy, you have seen people venerating icons by bowing to one and then kissing it. This can be disconcerting for many Christians. It was controversial in the days of John of Damascus and still can be.

John of Damascus was instrumental in the iconoclast controversy. He wrote On the Divine Images, which is  a defense of the practice of venerating icons.   Our word “iconoclast” as one who challenges cherished beliefs, seems to come from that time.  It is from two Greek words and literally means, “breaker of images”. During the early part of the Reformation, mobs stormed the Castle Church in Wittenberg, smashing statues of the Virgin Mary and other images.  Fr. Luther left his hiding placing in Wartburg to put a stop to that. John was of the opposite position to the iconclasts: an iconodule, “one who serves images”.  We live in an age in which we take a prideful pleasure in the breaking of icons yet the word “icon” is bandied about for all sorts of people as in such and such person is, “iconic” even when they do not reflect anything of the Lord and His will.

The Orthodox understanding of icons is this:  an icon is written.   Yes, it is painted but it written as a prayer, or a proclamation of the Word of God which is meet and right and salutary and so to do that was exhibited in a saint in Christ’s life.  The English word  word, “icon” is right from the New Testament and is translated as “image”  (Greek:  eikon, pronounced “icon”):

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:48-50

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:14-16

C. S. Lewis wrote that to God matter matters, after all He created matter.  We do not worship matter but the Creator of all things and through His creation His goodness is still seen in the things He created.  He became flesh to redeem those whom He created and loves.   Further, redemption is not dis-incarnate spirituality, He came to redeem His creation from it’s bondage to sin, decay and death.  He washes us in real water comprehended in His Word, His Name and in bread and wine, His body and blood.  His Word is preached and taught  into our hearts to sanctify us that we are more and more the icon of Christ in the world.  Our hope is in the life of the world to come.

The first use of “icon” or “image” is  in Genesis that man is made in the image of God (Gen. 2: 27) and to deform and murder that image is wickedness (Gen. 9:6). A current iconoclasm is gender transitioning and it is deformation of the imago Dei, the image of God. The image of God male and female and that is it.  It is wickedness to mutilate the body meant for the resurrection in Jesus Christ.  The Lord so thinks His creation good, that when fallen and disgraced, He graced us with the Image of His Presence, His Son Jesus Christ.  The Lord comes to save us, let us worship Him.  It is horrific to so mar the image of God in man. We need to fight the good fight for the image of God in man and the Man of heaven, Christ our Lord as did St. John of Damascus. We must remember the Lord’s goal for our life in Him:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be CONFORMED TO IMAGE OF HIS SON, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29; emphasis added)

and

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

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What Christmas Means To Me {Blogmas 2014} – Come Home For Comfort

Intro:  When I first read the title of this essay, I worriedly thought, ‘Did C. S. Lewis write a sentimental  piece on the meaning of Christmas?’  He did not, and I was sorry to have so readily misjudged him. Second thought I had:  ‘Did Mr. Lewis write about the meaning of the Incarnation as the meaning of Christmas?’  And here I was disappointed—but then again, he wrote so much about this true meaning that in such a short essay, it might have been difficult for him to write a Reader’s Digest piece on so broad and deep a subject.  Yet, I was not disappointed, for what it’s worth, by this essay.  Mr. Lewis usually surprises.

From God in the dock—Essays on Theology and Ethics by 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

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 too 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. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself — gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. for after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst, I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.