I was recently present at a church meeting which discussed whether there should be a service on Christmas day. On the whole, most people would have preferred no service, but they agreed somewhat reluctantly that since it falls this year on a Sunday, there would be worship. As the officiating minister, however, I was left in no doubt that only the most devoted and people with nothing better to do, would attend. The motivation for this lack of enthusiasm? A weary recognition that Christmas brings unavoidable familial duties and that younger family members will not think of attending church.
I sense this weariness, not only in church people, but in almost all sections of my acquaintance. Certainly the shared feeling is one of shouldering a burden, rather than enjoying a festival.Happily I belong to a tradition of Christian faith that began by taking a pretty dim view of Christmas. John Knox was by no means the grim and humourless prophet of popular legend, but he saw Christ-mass as yet more evidence of the devilish departure from biblical truth encouraged by Catholicism. There is of course no mention of the 25th December in the Bible, and certainly no command to celebrate Jesus’ birth with popular festivity. Knox and his fellow reformers instituted forms of discipline to prohibit Christmas along with all other superstitious rites. They did not imagine that Christian truth could be advanced by giving in to popular custom.
As a child I can remember the gradual shift in Scotland from New Year as the main winter festivity, to Christmas, aided by churches who imagined in their innocence that this shift indicated a move back to Christianity. They only slowly became aware that midnight carol services (imported from England) and Christmas Day Kiddies Carry-Ons ( imported from USA), provided a spurious religious justification for the biggest consumer rip-off in world history. With the decline of Christianity in Scotland, this justification has been removed, so that the rip-off has been deprived of the support of Jesus. In any case, correctness demands that the religious origins of the festival are not name-checked in case pious agnostics are put off it. Now that the Celebration of Conspicuous Consumption (CCC) stands clear in all the horror of its tinsel trimming and grotty grottoes, many people express a desire to give it the body-swerve. Indeed, sales of late December holidays which get you out from under the mistletoe and on to a decent Islamic beach from which Christmas is banned, are this year’s big thing.
So, my serious proposal, that all branches of the Christian Church revert to the policy of jolly John Knox, refusing all Christmas celebration, should come as no surprise to my readers, and might even prove popular, because both secular amd religious people are heartily sick of it. Scrooge was right. Bah, humbug, stuff your turkeys and your twenty best edicationally approved pressies for little Walter and give us some peace. For once churches could be ahead of the game, at the forefront of a camapaign to abolish CCC. We’ll be popular again, millions of pathetically grateful parents crowding our doors and demanding the pleasure of sleeping through a proper protestant sermon. When all this comes to pass, dear readers, remember you read it first here, and make sure a fitting memorial is raised to me , next to Desperate Dan in Dundee. Just call me The Grinch.