A Christmas Message   Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again: the time when you’ve been writing and sending Christmas cards and (hopefully) have been receiving some from others.  Assuming that the snow disruption hasn’t left you with a complete lack of cards, you will be displaying some kind messages for the season and the coming New Year from friends and family.  Now, take another look at the pictures on those cards – what are they of?  Santa? A robin? Some children making a snowman? A Christmas tree with lots of presents underneath and standing worryingly close to a log fire?  In other words: are there any religious depictions?

According to a survey by The Sunday Telegraph, only around a quarter of the Christmas cards available to buy have pictures relating to the traditional nativity story.  This seems hardly surprising to me because I believe that British society is going through a period of de-Christianisation which could be argued to have begun as far back as the period of Enlightenment.

However, certain Christian groups are concerned about this trend.  National director of Christian Voice Stephen Green has said: “This is another sign of the impact of political correctness and how Christ is being split from Christmas.” A strange statement when you consider the reality of how the festival of Christmas really began.  It may supposedly be a time to celebrate Christ’s birth, but the traditional festival people who reminisce about ‘the good old days’ think of today is actually is much further from the Biblical depiction than they might like to think.  Ask one of these people who moan about their child’s school nativity play being changed to be more inclusive of non-Christians to find the nativity story in the Bible – it’ll be a challenge.  The only references to Jesus’ birth and childhood are in the Gospel of Luke and the information given there is minimal.  Yes, you will find mentions of the Angel Gabriel, the town of Bethlehem, some shepherds, and a manger; but there are gaps which have been filled to expand the story into the more familiar story we see acted out today.

Also, things like Christmas trees – brought to us by Queen Victoria’s German husband Prince Albert (think of that Christmas song “O Tannenbaum”) – and the timing of the festival.  Theologians and historians who have studied the period of time around Jesus’ birth might not agree on much, but they do all agree that his birth was almost certainly not in the year 0 and it definitely wasn’t on 25th December: this date arose when trying to bring Christianity to a Pagan population.  There had long been a mid-winter festival known as ‘Yueltide’ celebrated by the Germanic people around the 4th century AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and decided to impose his religion throughout the empire.  The changing of hearts and minds which you want to occur when trying to enforce a new religion on an unwilling society is easier when you can use what they already do and merge it with the new religion’s ideas – “You want a winter festival to cheer yourself up in bleak times? Well, Christianity has this great festival celebrating the birth of its leader, ‘the Light of the World’, at that time!”

Returning to Christmas cards, the leaders of the three major political parties in Britain have released the images displayed on the front of their Christmas cards this year.  As usual, the pictures focus on the leaders’ families: there seems to be a need for today’s top politicians in this country to show that they are normal, family-orientated people – just like you and me.  So maybe we should follow this example and show others that family rather than religion or commercialisation should be the most important thing at this time of year…



Posted 20/12/2010 by thinkmindy in Politics, Religion

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