A Serious Question About Celebrating Christmas

A few days ago I mildly criticized kitschmas. One of the points I made was that kitsch doesn’t measure up to Camp because Camp tries to be serious while kitsch doesn’t even bother.

Thus, it seems, Camp can give us a strange sort of just pleasure in that we can get the point even while the producer of the Camp doesn’t, while kitsch only gives us pleasure if we are the ones missing the point. Maybe.

So I’ve been thinking a little since then about why Christmas tends toward kitsch.

Let me draw an incident from my life and see if this serves any purpose. The church I attend now celebrates communion on Christmas morning at 9:30, same time as Sunday morning.

No church I attended previously did so; at least, not so far as I recall.

So we weren’t in the habit, as a family, of going to church to celebrate the birth of Christ. We did it at home with cinammon rolls, ostentatiously wrapped gifts, a tree out of Thomas Kincade or Currier and Ives, and all the normal Christmas trappings.

What, Karen asked me, are we going to do this year?  

I found myself immediately confronted with a rather ironic situation. Would we go to church to celebrate communion on Christ-Mass, or would we stay home and celebrate Christ-Mass with our family.

You might ask, is Christmas a family holiday or a Church holiday?

Suddenly I realized that all my life I had been treating Christmas as a semi-secular holiday, personalized, oriented toward the family.

What do you think? Is that appropriate? Do you think that tendency might move us toward kitsch because we want the holiday for our sake, rather than for the sake of the One who dwells in unapproachable light but veiled Himself with flesh and blood?

10 Responses

  1. Both, of course. Our family celebrates the Church year at home with family throughout the week, and at church with our brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday. What our kids hear and learn at Sunday school and from the sermon is solidified and relearned all week, as we review readings and relevant doctrines and prepare for the coming Sunday.

    Of course, the church year includes Christmastide (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany).

    For a good discussion on the origins of the December date, see Gene Edward Veith’s blog http://www.geneveith.com/why-christmas-is-on-december-25-2/_4074/

    (Veith is a prof of literature at Patrick Henry College and writes for World Magazine and Tabletalk)

    I understand the relunctance to associate with any pagan celebrations; I also understand the fear of making feasts and festivals a new, man-made Law, burdening Christian consciences. But when observed in Christian liberty, the church year is a wonderful and rich teaching tool. We have a free “curriculum” to guide us through the Gospel and Salvation Story, every single year.

  2. I believe that Jesus should be left out of any “holy day” he didn’t specifically ask to be a part of. He did, however, sign up for the Sabbath. So I would vote to let Christmas be a family day or nothing at all.

    • Kelly, I’m very sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean.

      Which holy days did He specifically ask to be a part of? How did He ask? Hasn’t He sanctified every day and made them all holy? Hasn’t He asked to be a part of every day?

      I don’t mean to be difficult, but I’m truly not sure I understand what you mean. Are you asking for Christmas to be a celebration of the family and not of the birth of Christ? Should we celebrate His birth some other time? Not at all?

      Please help me! I want to understand.

      • You’re not so difficult.
        I’ll answer your questions in order, pretty much.

        1.&4. Which days is he apart of?
        Jesus is a part of every day.

        2. How did he ask?
        In a dream…no. He tells us in his Word!

        3. Are all days holy?
        No, not so much.
        Most days are equal, but I would argue that the Lord’s Day has been set apart for a special purpose, and is the only day that should be on the church calendar.

        4.-6. He knows how he wants to be worshiped and gives us guidelines for that in his Word. He has asked that we remember his life, death, and resurrection every Lord’s Day along with his supper.

        Just go to work on Christmas like every other day. And, like every other day, worship him for all his justice, kindness, and mercies toward you. Thank him for his birth and suffering on the cross. Come home to your family, like every other day. Lead them in prayer and worship,like every other day, and look forward to the Lord’s Day and our eternal sabbath with him.

        While we have many liberties, we should be careful not to make up days of worship that we think will take us closer to God, lest we create an idol.


  3. I have this growing itch over how individual and personal my faith has been…and how little I see it in the context of the church. The Christmas question is an excellent, and important, example of that. It is only in the last three years that I have begun to wonder about church on Christmas. If church is just fellowship, that is one thing. If church is the sacraments…well, that is a whole different thing.

    Once again, you have me thinking. That’s a good thing. Thanks.


  4. Pardon my impatient comment. I meant to write “heart-large and magnificent as it celebrates the God-Man.”

  5. I confess with you that I have never considered the question, believing that it can and should be both. But your question has startled me, as your questions often do. (Thanks.)

    I paraphrase Wendell Berry in asking a follow-up question: “What is Christmas for?” And I’ll go a step further and ask, “Who is Christmas for?”

    My gut reaction to all these questions is that Christmas is no longer Christ-Mass. And Christ-Mass–heart-large and magnificent as the God-Man it celebrates–has left the building for a lot of Christians, leaving the sorry, unsatisfying Christmas to stand there dumbly, as vacuous and vapid as a Wal-Mart Santa.

  6. I would say that Christmas (as in Dec. 25th) isn’t a church holiday because there is no precedent for it in the scriptural account of the life of Christ. The timing is (so I’ve read) of pagan origin, and was adopted by the church as a gimmick to convince ungodly revelers that they could continue to celebrate an abominable festival called Saturnalia as Christians. I read yesterday that the Puritans at some point condemned the celebration of Christmas altogether. Easter, by contrast, is associated directly with his resurrection, and is celebrated in accordance with the timing of that blessed event in history. It seems that would put Christmas more into the category of family holiday.
    Surely is appropriate for a Christian to celebrate the incarnation of Christ every day, but It does make me question the propriety of choosing the particular calendar days that were at one time designated for activities that must have been a stench in the nostrils of our God. What do you think?

    • The celebration on the same day as the pagan festivals was intended to quash those pagan festivals, not encourage them (and it was pretty successful). And the timing of Easter is actually tied to astronomical cycles and the liturgical calender rather than trying to be the exact date of the event.

  7. “[I]s Christmas a family holiday or a Church holiday?”

    I would think the two cannot be mutually exclusive. It makes me think of Jesus’ words: “Who is my mother, or my brethren… For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. “

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