Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Christmas

(Repost For Christmas. Originally here)

In our place we don’t do Santa.

We have informed the children that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birthday and that Santa is a way people have of remembering the very nice man St Nicholas of Patara who would give presents to poor children for Jesus’s birthday because they had no one to give them presents.

Just The Facts

Objectively this is a factually historically sound precis of the identities of the major personages associated with Christmas and far closer to the truth than the western secular culturally approved Christmas story which is that Christmas is a day when the entirely mythical Santa Claus pilots a team of magic reindeer around the planet and distributes presents to children on the basis of good behaviour, completing his global mission in one night assisted by a team of magical elves.

So on a factual basis my family explanation of ‘Why Christmas?’ beats the objectivity index of the major alternative explanation by about 100-NIL.

Even if you think that Jesus Himself is a myth it is nevertheless true that Christmas Day came into being a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Yes, yes I know, the actual day was appropriated from a pagan midwinter festival but it wasn’t called Christmas then.

Name That Stereotype

Now if you’re a hard core atheist you despise myths of all kinds so you wouldn’t be wanting to be feeding the children’s minds up with Santa nonsense. You’ll be telling them that Christmas (without the deliberate mis-spelling with ‘X’) is a celebration of the birthday of a mythical person called Jesus ’cause that’s factual, but that in your family Christmas is just about whatever you want to do at Christmas.

And if you’re an agnostic you’ll have no objection to Jesus as a putative historical personage or even as God, so you would have at least no objection to be going with the basic facts about ‘Why Christmas?‘, but you might decide to go with the Santa story because its fun for kids to play make-believe.

I guess the ‘Christmas is about Santa’ story would also be adopted to easy-going or less dogmatic atheists like Julia Gillard, Prime Minister Of Australia, who don’t believe in God but who don’t share the relentless atheist insistence on eliminating Jesus from public consciousness associated with, say, Richard Dawkins, and just like to see the kids get entranced in ‘the magic of Christmas’.

And from personal observation it would also apply to the general Australian public for whom neither Jesus nor atheism nor agnosticism registers at any meaningful resonance.

As far those who believe Jesus is God, such as myself, we obviously want to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday. Some Christian families also integrate Santa into their Christmas Family narrative but in my opinion this makes Christmas worse, not better.

Why Santa makes Christmas Worse

When our kids get a Christmas present they know that Mummy and Daddy have bought it for them, not Santa. So this is tangible evidence that M&D love giving them great stuff, and the greatest stuff that kids get, materially speaking, comes on Christmas Day. Pooh-pooh it if you like but gift-giving is a practical demonstration of love. Why should my kids think that Santa loves them more than M&D ? I think that its a positive for the children that they know that M&D bought them the big shiny bike or the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Mega-Dino Challenge or the Dora The Explorer magnetic toothbrush with built in compass.

Secondly, the kids express their joy for the gift directly back to M&D and it goes like this WOW! THANKS DAD! THAT IS AWESOOOOMMME! Sorry Santa, you don’t deserve that gratitude since you don’t even exist anyway and I’m sure as eggs not letting you have it. So the M&D’s get to express the full volume of their children’s delight at the Christmas gifts, instead of vicariously filtered via Santa.

Third, we as M&D give Christmas presents to our children because we love them, not on the basis of whether or not they have been good. Our children get validated for who they are, not on the basis of their transitory behaviour. Our children know they do not have to earn the love of M&D unlike that fickle impostor Santa whose favour can at any time evaporate like summer mist.

Fourth, the children get facts not fiction. No matter how you slice it, Santa is made up. A truthful explanation of Why Do We Give Presents At Christmas must include some reference to Jesus, even if He is relegated to myth. Face it, Santa entered the Christmas narrative at some point many centuries after Jesus and doubly so the magic reindeer and elves.

Much as many hate it Jesus IS the ORIGINAL reason for the season and the reason why Christmas exists. Here’s a theoretical question your child may ask:

Child: ‘Mummy, Why DO people go around saying ‘Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all men’ ?
Incorrect Answer A: Because Christmas is a time when we get together as a family.
Correct Answer B: Its because that’s what the Angels said to the shepherds on Jesus’s birthday.

Quite simply, an integrated understanding of Christmas requires reference to Jesus.

Fifth, for those who are Jesus-friendly, awarding Christmas to Santa robs Jesus of richly deserved recognition. Americans have a thing called Martin Luther King Day. Contrary to current popular preferential meaning, this does not commemorate the day when Santa led a Freedom march on Washington DC to eloquently demand equal rights for African-Americans assisted by a team of magical elves. I think you get what I mean. Even if you think Jesus is just a man or even just a myth, why not let the kids admire and learn from His example ?

Santa Is Not All Bad

Ejecting Santa from Christmas is not without cost. My kids do miss out on the awestruck wonder of waiting for Santa to visit and some really great make-believe. And yes, my kids are almost the only ones at school who don’t think Santa is real, which can make them seem like Alien Life-Forms to the others who have been fed the 100% guaranteed Santa myth. Ironic that, but it doesn’t seem to lead to teasing.

But even without Jesus, Christmas is better without Santa (see reasons one, two and three above). Of course WITH Jesus there is another kind of awestuck wonder which happens to be based in historical truth, but even if you really wish to persist with Jesus is A Myth, at least you can tell tell the myth that is related to the actual origins of Christmas rather than the one that originated with Coca-Cola Inc.

You haven’t pulled down the Christmas tree just yet, have you ?

As the great pseudo-Australian / Fred Dagg / put it:

Star Of Wonder
Star Of Light
Star Of Beauty*
She’ll be right

Star of glory
That’s the story
Following yonder star

Wayne Wilson-Wong agrees

Not Reduced Salt Two Minute Asian Fusion Combo Noodles

What’s with those flamin’ three kings anyway ? Why would you want to follow a star ? And can I just clarify that Magi is not the same as Maggi ?

Beautifully rendered here.

* Disclosure: I have improved the Dagg version by replacing ‘Bewdy’ with ‘Beauty’

In our place we don’t do Santa.

We have informed the children that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birthday and that Santa is a way people have of remembering the very nice man St Nicholas of Patara who would give presents to poor children for Jesus’s birthday because they had no one to give them presents.

Just The Facts

Objectively this is a factually historically sound precis of the identities of the major personages associated with Christmas and far closer to the truth than the western secular culturally approved Christmas story which is that Christmas is a day when the entirely mythical Santa Claus pilots a team of magic reindeer around the planet and distributes presents to children on the basis of good behaviour, completing his global mission in one night assisted by a team of magical elves.

So on a factual basis my family explanation of ‘Why Christmas?’ beats the objectivity index of the major alternative explanation by about 100-NIL.

Even if you think that Jesus is a myth Himself it is nevertheless true that Christmas Day came into being a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Yes, yes I know, the actual day was appropriated from a pagan midwinter festival but it wasn’t called Christmas then.

Name That Stereotype

Now if you’re a hard core atheist you despise myths of all kinds so you wouldn’t be wanting to be feeding the children’s minds up with Santa nonsense. You’ll be telling them that Christmas (without the deliberate mis-spelling with ‘X’) is a celebration of a mythical person called Jesus’ birthday ’cause that’s factual, but that in your family Christmas is just about whatever you want to do at Christmas.

And if you’re an agnostic you’ll have no objection to Jesus as a putative historical personage or even putatively as God, so you would have at least no objection to be going with the basic facts about ‘Why Christmas?’, but you might decide to go with the Santa story because its fun for kids to play make-believe.

I guess the ‘Christmas is about Santa’ story would also be adopted to easy-going or less dogmatic atheists like Julia Gillard, Prime Minister Of Australia, who don’t believe in God but who don’t share the relentless atheist insistence on eliminating Jesus from public consciousness associated with, say, Richard Dawkins, and just like to see the kids get entranced in ‘the magic of Christmas’.

And from observation it would also apply to the general Australian public for whom neither Jesus nor atheism nor agnosticism registers at any meaningful resonance.

As far those who believe Jesus is God, such as myself, we obviously want to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday. Some Christian families also integrate Santa into their Christmas Family narrative but in my opinion this makes Christmas worse, not better.

Why Santa makes Christmas Worse

When our kids get a Christmas present they know that Mummy and Daddy have bought it for them, not Santa. So this is tangible evidence that M&D love giving them great stuff, and the greatest stuff that kids get, materially speaking, comes on Christmas Day. Pooh-pooh it if you like but gift-giving is a practical demonstration of love. Why should my kids think that Santa loves them more than M&D ? I think that its a positive for the children that they know that M&D bought them the big shiny bike or the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Mega-Dino Challenge or the Dora The Explorer magnetic toothbrush with built in compass.

Secondly, the kids express their joy for the gift directly back to M&D and it goes like this WOW! THANKS DAD! THAT IS AWESOOOOMMME! Sorry Santa, you don’t deserve that gratitude since you don’t even exist anyway and I’m sure as eggs not letting you have it. So the M&D’s get to express the full volume of their children’s delight at the Christmas gifts, instead of vicariously filtered via Santa.

Third, we as M&D give Christmas presents to our children because we love them, not on the basis of whether or not they have been good. Our children get validated for who they are, not on the basis of their transitory behaviour. Our children know they do not have to earn the love of M&D unlike that fickle impostor Santa whose favour can at any time evaporate like summer mist.

Fourth, the children get facts not fiction. No matter how you slice it, Santa is made up. A truthful explanation of Why Do We Give Presents At Christmas must include some reference to Jesus, even if He is relegated to myth. Face it, Santa entered the Christmas narrative at some point many centuries after Jesus and doubly so the magic reindeer and elves.

Much as many hate it Jesus IS the ORIGINAL reason for the season and the reason why Christmas exists. Here’s a theoretical question your child may ask:

Child: ‘Mummy, Why DO people go around saying ‘Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all men’ ?
Incorrect Answer A: Because Christmas is a time when we get together as a family.
Correct Answer B: Its because that’s what the Angels said to the shepherds on Jesus’s birthday.

Quite simply, an integrated understanding of Christmas requires reference to Jesus.

Fifth, for those who are Jesus-friendly, awarding Christmas to Santa robs Jesus of richly deserved recognition. Americans have a thing called Martin Luther King Day. Contrary to current popular preferential meaning, this does not commemorate the day when Santa led a Freedom march on Washington DC to eloquently demand equal rights for African-Americans assisted by a team of magical elves. I think you get what I mean. Even if you think Jesus is just a man or even just a myth, why not let the kids admire and learn from His example ?

Santa Is Not All Bad

Ejecting Santa from Christmas is not without cost. My kids do miss out on the awestruck wonder of waiting for Santa to visit and some really great make-believe. And yes, my kids are almost the only ones at school who don’t think Santa is real, which can make them seem like Alien Life-Forms to the others who have been fed the 100% guaranteed Santa myth. Ironic that, but it doesn’t seem to lead to teasing.

But even without Jesus, Christmas is better without Santa (see reasons one, two and three above). Of course WITH Jesus there is another kind of awestuck wonder which happens to be based in historical truth, but even if you really wish to persist with Jesus is A Myth, at least you can tell tell the myth that is related to the actual origins of Christmas rather than the one that originated with Coca-Cola Inc.

‘Language is a virus from Outer Space’ – William S. Burroughs

Cosmic dust contains platinum and iridium, in case you should ever need to know. Certain stars are imploding right now, and it looks like rain. I’ll write you again tomorrow. Regards, Gwendolyn (Gwendolyn MacEwen, ‘The Letter’)

So this Christmas I have booked my male in-laws and myself on a Fishing Charter. My brother-in-law, Bruce, asked if I could also book his Dad on the trip. This I did and then sent Bruce a confirmatory email in the imagined style of a Los Angeles Gangsta Rap gang leader:

Hey Bro.
Da Fishkillas da worst gang in da hood round Double 99 has a drive-by planned and we’s welcomin’ your old man Snoop Fishy Fish Killa dats right dose fish with the fake jacks gonna get laid on their backs and I mean real bad.

Approximate Translation:
Bruce’s Dad has also been booked for the fishing charter.

This is how BabelFish saw it when I translated it into German then French then Greek then back to English

Schlechteste Gruppe DA-Fishkillas DA in DA-Haube the worst team DA-Fishkillas in t o n of hood provided that it doubles the 99 that become rond THERE it corrects a opinion d’? a car that passes the dishes and welcomin your old person Schnüffler-fischartigen of fishes Killa dats fishes of dose with that are forged publications of placement that go, that is placed in his backs us receives also I means the bad truth.

– Barra (Floppy Fish Must Die)

I find this screamingly funny. That means I am normal.

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.
Titus 1:15

Surfing the Net for reaction to Richard Dawkins’ appearance on ABC’s Q&A program of March 9 2010 “God Science and Sanity”, I discovered for the first time the assertion of aggressive Atheists that the Virgin Birth consitutes an act of rape.

I was familiar enough with the scripture to know that Mary consented to the Virgin Birth and responded in that manner. My Atheist correspondent, Lord Voldemort, replied with reference to scripture, Luke 1:28-38

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

And summarizes his rape argument as follows:

  • Mary’s opinion is neither requested nor acknowledged.
  • The language of directives is used.

By today’s standards, someone in a powerful position is using that power to commit rape. This is corroborated by the “I am the Lord’s servant” line.

Wills: Lets Look at Them All

Unfortunately for LV, the ‘language of directives’ is NOT being employed here, except in the directive to name the Son Jesus. Will merely signifies the future tense. It is not employed gramatically as an order or directive. In fact most of the Wills occur in the section where Mary asks about How the conception will occur, so these Wills cannot be orders to conceive. They are explanations of how the conception can occur since she is a virgin.

In fact, there are many wills in the passage, but not all are directed at Mary. Just as many are directed at Jesus. Is God also raping, dominating or abusing Jesus ? Of course not. Let’s look at His wills.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

LV, by insisting that Mary’s wills are commands, may wish to consider what the wills directed at Jesus mean. Are they abusive, dominating commands to be great, to be the Son Of God, to be the King of the Jews and to have an eternal kingdom ? No. They are future tense, describing what will be and are denotive of the highest honour and great esteem. As are Mary’s.

See below for further comments on ‘will’

Mary’s Opinion

Mary was not denied the opportunity to express her opinion, and in fact did so by questioning the means of, then consenting to the Virgin Birth. Thus the acknowledement of that opinion then becomes moot unless LV wishes to insist that the angel should say ‘Righto then, that’s all agreed’ or somesuch.

What Is The Relationship Between God And Mary ?

LV’s mischaracterisation of the relationship between God and Mary as Rapist and Victim is a complete misrepresentation of the factual relationship which is beloved King to trusted servant.

The Angel’s Mission

LV would have it that the Angel has been dispatched to Mary to inform her that in a week or two she will be raped. His construction of the narrative is nonsensical. Rapists do not dispatch messengers to inform of impending rape. They just rape.

Rather, the angel has not come to inform Mary that she will be entrusted with a unique and highly honoured task which is to bear and birth the Messiah, the coming of whom is the most anticipated event in Jewish history. God is bestowing Mary with a unique historical honour, not abusing her.

In other words the Angel has been sent in advance by God to inform and comfort her about events which are about to take place and to describe to her what they mean. The angel’s visit describes God’s kindness and respect to Mary, not contempt, hatred or lust.

In addition the angel’s visit ahead of time proves that the wills in his message denote future tense, not immediate forced command. The visit ahead of time also implies that consent is being sought.

This inversion of God’s intent and character is typical of aggessive atheists like LV who gain perverse pleasure from maligning God and forcing foul meanings on The Bible.

An example of a similar difficult and esteemed honor might be a medieval King choosing and entrusting a servant to accompany and protect his juvenile son on a long horseback journey across the breadth of China. The servant is chosen for reasons of loyalty, courage, trustworthiness and reliability not in order to humiliate or abuse. That servant may also be chosen in the knowledge they would accept such a task if assigned it, as leaving a critical and supremely important task or entrusting one’s own Son to one not willing is to invite disaster.

Unconscious Bias

LV’s negative reaction to this passage is also a result of unconscious Western bias he brings to the passage.

Distaste for the differential King/Subject statuses (here of God and Mary) is typical of Westerners as it cuts across our culturally revered norms of Democracy and autonomy (radical individualism). However, a person from an Eastern culture reading this encounter between King’s Messenger and Subject would find it unremarkable for the difference in status and obligation assumed in the passage and indeed may well find the Angel’s attitude remakably acommodating and kind for an emissary of the monarch: The angel speaks gently, does not demand ritualised forms of address or explicit acknowledgement of relative status, allows questioning and waits for consent.

King And Subject

LV is correct to identify that Mary has an obligation to obedience (I am the Lord’s servant) arising from her Subject/King status, but typically of aggressive atheists, LV instantly and always identifies the obligation of the Subject to the King as an abuse of power. In doing so LV fails to recognise any possibility that a healthy King/Subject relationship can exist, that such a relationship can and does exist without abuse, that the King may select servants for particular tasks on the basis the he already knows in advance that they will accept and enjoy the task and that tasks performed out of obligation may nevertheless impart high honour to those performing them.

Finally on this the King may not always choose to exercise his right to obedience. It is not evident in this passage that Mary had no choice of refusal, even though her obligation to obedience is correctly assumed. Mary could have said ‘No’ and the King may have said ‘OK then’. Given the gravity, honour and historical importance of the task God needs someone wiling, not unwilling.

To summarize some points so far:

  • The task is to bear and birth the Messiah
  • The coming of the Messiah to Israel is the great hope and entire focus of the whole history of the Jewish nation
  • Given this, a higher honour for Mary is hard to imagine
  • The task honours Mary, it does not debase her, as rape would.
  • Given the gravity, importance, surpassing honor of the task and that in involves God entrusting his Son to another person (Mary) God may well have chosen Mary for the task knowing in advance she would accept.

 

Mary’s reaction to the Angel’s visit, as well as that of her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John The Baptist, directly confirms many of the points I have made above. Her song, now known as The Magnificat, is located in scripture at Luke 1:46-55.

Mary’s Zeal For The Messianic Promise

The Magnificat records Mary’s joy in God that she has been selected for such a great honour and that she this honour is centred on assisting in bringing the Messiah to Israel. She praises God for His faithfulness in remebering his Messianic promises to Abraham and Israel.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Mary’s zeal for the Messianic promises of God to Israel indicate that this zeal forms at least some part of the reason that God selected her to bear Jesus. If one includes verse 50 in this frame of reference, gratitude to God for sending the Messiah comprises about one-third of Mary’s song of thanks. The Angel Gabriel indicated specifically to Mary that the child would be the Messiah by reference to the child’s later assumption of ‘the throne of his father (i.e. ancestor) David’.

Luke 1 is a chapter all about the coming of the Messiah. The task of Elizabeth, the other major personage in the chapter is to bear John the Baptist, whose role is to proclaim the immediate coming of the Messiah and Mary’s role is to birth and bear the Messiah, name Him Jesus, then protect and nurture Him until maturity i.e. be His mother.

Mary’s song indicates her zeal and faith in God’s Messianic promises, explains her favour with God and also her selection as Jesus’ mother. God, knowing Mary’s character and hope for the Messiah, knows she will not refuse the honour and hence selects her for the role.

She certainly does not consider herself a victim and neither does Elizabeth.

42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Since God knows that Mary will not refuse the honour, the Angel can speak to Mary in the future tense (Will) of the events that she has been selected for.

Missing Out, Messing Up

LV’s determination to malign God and The Bible causes him to miss out on the many encouraging aspects of the Virgin Birth narrative including Mary’s point that God has special concern with the ordinary and poor of the planet, including herself, as proven by her selection, despite being a completely unremarkable village girl for the high privilege given her.

LV’s impoverished approach to this passage robs him of both understanding and coherence. Titus 1:15 could have been written for him. Indeed LV’s very characterisation of the Virgin Birth as Rape can’t be sustained even if God had forced Mary into the arrangement. Rape is a non-consensual sexual act even where conception does not occur, whereas conception is an act of reproduction, the genesis of a human life. To treat one as the other is a non-sequitir. Sex is not reproduction. The Virgin Birth occurred without sex and hence without rape.The maximum charge that could be levied against God is “non-consensual conception”, not rape.

But the Virgin Birth was consensual, first accompanied by obligation, but then overtaken with joy.

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
Luke 1:46-47

Season’s Gruntings.

As Christmas roars toward us I am reminded of the cheapest box of Christmas Cards I ever purchased. I am a cheapskate and love digging around for specials of say 800 Christmas cards for $1.50 – that would be ideal. So I buy such a box and start happily posting them off, admiring their awful quality and designs only tangentially related to Christmas, when one stopped me in my tracks.
The design was a bunch of animals playing in a playground sliding down slippery-dips, bouncing on trampolines etc. There was a Walrus, a Penguin, a Bear and maybe a Fish. It was as if a Birthday card for a two-year old had been mislabelled “Merry Christmas”.

Next day the penny dropped. The animals were all the kinds of animals you would find at the North Pole…where Santa lives…so that was the connection to Christmas. It was a generic “things associated with ice” card.

I am looking for this year’s set which I’m told feature Russian Nuclear Powered Submarines surfing through fields of anchovies.

Merry Christmas!