What Christmas Meant to C. S. Lewis

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

  • Luke 2:8-20

“Three things go by the name of Christmas.  One is a religious festival. …  The second … is a popular holiday. …  But the third thing called Christmas is 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 present, 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. …”

  • C. S. Lewis, What Christmas Means to Me, an essay in God in the Docks

Part of what I skipped about the second meaning of Christmas is that Lewis argued that he wished everyone would mind their own business; thus the pain of the third thing called Christmas was everyone’s business.  To him, ruining the other two.

The four grounds that Lewis uses to “condemn” the commercial racket called Christmas are:

  1. The pain is more than the pleasure, in his opinion.
  2. It is mostly involuntary.
  3. The received presents are either hideously ugly or useless gadgets, in his opinion.
  4. It is all a nuisance.

NOTE:  In the essay that was quoted yesterday, Xmas and Christmas, Lewis uses the word “racket”, but tries to make a joke of it, confusing it with a tennis racket.

He goes on to say that the commercial racket called Christmas is just one of many symptoms of the “lunatic condition of our country.”  His country being the United Kingdom, but it could be said for America, and many other places as well.

Yet, many stores, who are on the verge of collapse, hang in there for one more year based on Christmas sales.  Just to be in the same spot the following year.

I think this will conclude my foray into C. S. Lewis essays on Christmas this year.  He and I share many of the same views.  If the necessary purchasing boost in the economy could just be moved away from the religious holiday, it would be much better in my opinion.  As for Lewis’ four points, I agree with three of the four.  But as for number 3, a thoughtful giver can give thoughtful gifts. 

By the way, my wife loves gawdy Christmas Sweaters, what others call “Ugly Sweaters.”  Those less daring in their fashion sense compliment her.  She can make it look good.  Then again, I love red and green and glitter and sequins and embroidered stuff…  Her new sweater this year was one that had sequins across the front.  If you brushed the sequins in one direction, the sweater said “Nice.”  If you brushed the sequins in the opposite direction, the sweater said “Naughty.”  She demonstrated at a church fellowship.  One of her friends came over and, without thinking, said, “I missed that” starting to rub my wife’s chest.  It took my wife a second of shock before she stepped back and said that she could change it, but no one else can.  The room erupted in laughter.  At that point, she was the hit of the fellowship.

Yet, the gift giving has gotten so far out of hand that the economy demands it.  Then again, the buyers are so far in debt as a result, that the only thing that prompts them to buy again is next Christmas.  If the commercial racket called Christmas was no more, would the buying even out over the entire year, saving the stores and economy without the Christmas rush?  Less stress, less hustle and bustle?  Less distractions away from the reason for the season?

I’m not suggesting abolishing Christmas, at least the commercial racket of Christmas, but it is something to ponder.  Yet, the thing more important to ponder, thus the reason to not like the commercial racket, is what Mary pondered on that first night, when shepherds came to worship the King.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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