What Christmas Means To Me (Part 2)
In our previous blog, we looked at C.S. Lewis’ famous essay, “What Christmas Means to Me.” He challenged the commercialization of Christmas, arguing that it brings far more pain than pleasure.
I want to respond to the four points which Lewis makes -- and contrast them with four truths about the real Christmas.
The first point he makes is that the commercial celebration of Christmas gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. He has a good point. Figuring out exactly the right gift to give a family member or a boss or a fellow co-worker requires enormous mental energy. It is no wonder that one of the most popular of all gifts at Christmas is the ubiquitous gift card (so the recipient can choose -- and pay for -- his or her own gift!).
The second point he makes is that much of the giving in this commercial view of Christmas is involuntary. That is, you can force someone else to give you a quite undeserved and unanticipated gift by forcing upon him or her a quite unprovoked gift of their own! They are then in your debt -- and common courtesy requires the aforementioned victim to reciprocate such an act of “generosity”!
The third aspect of the commercial celebration of Christmas which Lewis would dispense with if he could is that things are given which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets. Such gifts show a complete waste of human ingenuity and skill in producing objects with minimal to no value.
The fourth aspect which Lewis condemns is the nuisance of the whole thing. He suggests that rather than merrymaking or enjoying a religious holiday, this commercial celebration of Christmas causes families to look more like an illness had gone through the house!
Let’s respond to each of these objections -- and notice how the real Christmas stands in contrast to each of them.
1. On the issue of the celebration bringing far more pain than pleasure. True Christianity does teach that the coming of the Messiah into the world would be both a cause of rejoicing among the angelic world and a knife in the heart of the Virgin Mary. The gift God gave involved the painful sacrifice of His Son so that our sins could be righteously forgiven. However, His sacrifice provides salvation for all who believe. Those who are thus redeemed become members of God’s family. And Scripture describes Him as the God “at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11).
2. Lewis criticizes the commercial celebration of Christmas because most of the giving is involuntary. God’s gift of His Son, however, was not forced by anyone. He freely gave His Son as our substitute. And the Son freely gave Himself. Jesus declared, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn. 10:18).
3. Lewis’ third objection to the commercial celebration of Christmas is that things are given as presents which no mortal would ever buy for himself, useless gadgets and novelties. God’s gift of His Son could not have been more practical. Jesus’ coming is described in Isaiah 9 in the following words: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (verse 6) Jesus alone can handle the governing of my life; He is the solution to all my difficulties; He is fully divine, welcoming me as a Father would a son; He gives peace which the world can only pitifully counterfeit. Practical? Nothing in the universe can match the incredible practicality of knowing Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior.
4. Lewis’ fourth and final objection to the commercial celebration of Christmas is all the nuisance. After all, he says, we still have all our ordinary shopping to do. God’s gift to us of His Son was out of love -- and love is the opposite of nuisance. Because of His great love, man is redeemable and can become redeemed, useful, and fulfilled by receiving God’s Christmas gift to us.
The story is told of a little girl at the beginning of the Christmas season. Around her house everything was abuzz with action in preparation for the holidays. It seemed everyone was too busy to spend time with the little girl, and everything she tried to do to gain attention or help only resulted in her being shooed away or reprimanded for "being in the way." As her exhausted mother finally tucked her into bed after a long day, the little girl began to recite her usual bedtime praying of the Lord's Prayer. Being tired of all the bustle and fuss around the Christmas holiday, the little girl prayed; ". . . and forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us!"
Let’s celebrate God’s giving His Son for us!
Contributed by Dr. Larry Dixon, Professor of Theology at CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry