The “Christmas” Holiday:

… some Explanations for a Secular Website,
and perhaps even a chance to help other men and enjoy it,

(c) 2014, Davd

As a serious Christian1, i look at “the Christmas season” somewhat wryly  and even sadly. There is so much going on that has “[bleep] all” to do with Jesus Christ, his teachings, even his birth. Much of it is a more-or-less pleasant diversion from the fact that the days are so short and the nights are so long (can you imagine how underwhelming all those lighted decorations would be in a Canadian late June with 16—24 hours of daylight?); or another occasion, not that different really from the Grey Cup or the first of July, to party and maybe get a little sloshed.

The lights and the partying could just as well be called Winter Solstice. Indeed, some Orthodox Christians spend “Advent”, the weeks leading up to Christmas, in austerity rather than revelry.

I’m not very surprised that there should be a shopping binge around the end of the autumn, in a recently wealthy country whose chief economic ideology is capitalist—but that has little to do with Jesus of Nazareth and more to do against him. Giving gifts to friends and kin is consistent with his teaching, but in my humble opinion anyway, the best Christmas gifts should be
——> made or grown rather than bought (I give oregano and other herbs from my gardens, for instance; and red-pine boughs for decoration, to friends and churches2)
——> given to Jesus—he’s the birthday boy, isn’t he?—rather than to people you want to impress. The poor, and children, are better to give to from a Christian perspective, than business connections, sales clients, or aged relatives from whom you’re angling for a big inheritance.

Here’s an interesting Christian Christmas gift idea, if you tolerate crowded shopping malls well or have a craft skill that makes things children like3. Find some children near you whose grandparents live far away, and arrange with the grandparents to buy or make gifts for those children in the grandparents’ name. Shipping “Christmas presents” can be mighty expensive if you don’t have a bulk rate with some courier service—so you’ll save the grandparents much more time and money than the effort will cost you. You give to the children and the grandparents, not your money, but your time and the benefits of your location.

Let’s develop that idea one step further: Do you know children near you whose fathers have been cast-off by their mothers? (It seldom seems to happen the other way ’round.) Preferably, you know each father also, or one of his best friends. Organize a party for those children, with two or more men as hosts (both for social efficiency and for mutual chaperonage.) Include Dad as part of the party (a phone chat if he lives a long way off), as well as fun and gifts, which means organizing for Dad to be available some of the time while it’s going on.

(If any mother whose ex is actually a decent man, refuses to let her children take part—shame her! Expose her [socially not anatomically] if you have ways to do so. Abusing fathers who are decent men, is evil, Jesus hated evil, and if this were a Christian website i could cite passages from Scripture to back that up. No matter how small his wallet, a decent, loving father is valuable to his children.)

So if you want to put up lights, have fun doing so; and if it’s not fun, don’t go doing it because of Christmas, ’cause it’s really about winter solstice and how long the nights are in Canada this time of year. If you want to party, have fun but avoid drunk driving and remember that STDs don’t take the winter off.

Bias what you eat toward fairly healthy fun food, like apple cider and good coffee, peanuts, popcorn and pretzels rather than highly processed fatty snacks, turkey and ham rather than sausages that contain much more fat than protein. (The ham fat, if it’s a regular ham with a layer of fat between the skin and the meat, can go to your dog—he should have some fun, too4.) If you’re eating alone or with just one or two pals [or children—i was once a single father] then roast beef and fresh home made bread can be a special and fairly healthy Christmas feast.

All Jesus himself had for his first Christmas dinner, was milk.
Some factual “btw”s:
Jesus probably was not born near the Winter Solstice. Luke’s Gospel tells that shepherds were out in the fields watching their flock at the time, and i have heard more than once, that even in that Mediterranean climate, sheep are not out grazing in late December. One of those who told me so said Jesus was probably born in the spring.

Luke’s Gospel also states that the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was—a Roman census which required everyone to go to his ancestral home town. Joseph and Mary, being of the lineage of the great King David, went to Bethlehem, David’s city, as the Roman Emperor had ordered. … and winter is no time for a sensible Emperor to order all his subjects to travel around.

So why not celebrate Christmas in the spring? One obvious reason is that Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is in the spring. Its place in the calendar is linked to Passover, the Jewish holy festival whose time has been in the spring since long before Jesus walked the earth.

Jesus’ Resurrection is more important than his birth: Everyone gets born; coming back from the dead is very rare. Birth is an ordinary natural event; resurrection is a miracle. Passover has always been celebrated in the spring, ergo: The spring celebration of Christianity is the Resurrection—so if Jesus’ birth is going to be celebrated, it needs another time of year… and late December, even in Mediterranean climates, is a quiet time for farmers… who made up much more of the population then, than now.

“Christ” is Latin for Messiah, and one simple way to translate that Hebrew word into English, is “saviour”. Christmas is the festival of the birth of the Saviour.

Why aren’t we feeling “saved”? Why doesn’t it seem like everything has been put right? One good reason could be that Jesus’ Teachings are not very well followed, and haven’t been. He taught humility; we see fuss and pride dominant in world affairs. He taught that the ways of the rich are contrary to the ways of His Kingdom; we see economic growth worshipped more than we see His Teachings worshipped, in modern politics.

He taught sexual restraint and marital fidelity; the trend during my lifetime has been rather the opposite. (Methinks a tough-minded Christian government would tax cosmetics and clothing designed to look “sexy”, at rates similar to those at which Canada taxes cigarettes and alcoholic drink—or maybe, at even higher rates.)

Christian Scripture does not approve, for instance, of easy divorce or active homosexuality. And however much fun some women and “gay men” may have had in recent decades—has either been good for public health? or the well being of children?

Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi has been cited as saying that Christianity is an excellent set of teachings, but impossible for human beings to keep. So far, while i have met a few men and women who do5 keep them quite well, that “impossible” seems true in the sense that the population as a whole isn’t keeping them and history doesn’t show large national populations doing so.

No great surprise, then, if the birth of Jesus is used as an excuse for putting up lights when the nights are long, commercial greed, and partying as if it were a sports championship. As a Christian writing for a secular website, i can regret the greed and encourage other men not to support it; i can bless the partying to the extent it is honest and relatively healthy, but not call it Christian; and agree that some of the lights are quite pleasant to look at without thinking they have much to do with Jesus Christ.

Me? born in a barn?
You are too kind .. my Master
was born in a barn.

Notes:

1. I have been told that i’m a more serious Christian than most. I do recite two Christian prayers each morning before i get up: “The Apostles’ Creed” and “the Lord’s Prayer.” Neither is about begging or nagging for what i want that day; i go over them in turn, slowly, as a discipline and reminder to influence my choices and actions during the day. I pray for a day and a life in harmony with Christian teachings, not for amusements, “stuff”, nor wealth.

2. Red pine is fairly rare around here, and its dark, fairly long ‘needles’ make good decoration material; i have a windbreak of them, and December is a good time to prune off the lowest branches. (There are spruce and white-cedar in the windbreak as well, most of them smaller than the pines; so pruning the pines improves their future timber value without letting the wind get through.)

3. For instance, you might be handy with a lathe. Tops—those wooden toys that spin like an upside-down onion—are fairly easy to make, they last a long time, and several little children will probably get more fun out of one well made painted or varnished top, than two or more of the [dreck] that is sold in those crowded stores.

4. I usually cut the fat into chunks, give Fritz a handful, and save the rest in the freezer for later; i think a huge amount of fat at once isn’t that good. And i’v’e been known to use some ham and bacon fat to brown the onions i cook with beans.

5 … in some cases, did, until their natural deaths in old age.

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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