'Tis the Season

It's that time of year again: Christmas and New Year's, the busiest time, perhaps the most materialistic time, on the American calendar. This year, new controversies have erupted: can airports put up a Christmas tree without a menorah? How dangerous is it to wait in line for a PlayStation 3?

Everyone's goal this time of year seems to be to "get it all done." We must rush to the mall, to parties, and to events for the sake of being "finished." Many of us are sick of Christmas before December 25th even arrives. The Christmas retailers, who stand to gain a third of their yearly revenue in a few weeks, know how to appeal to many desires in us, even legitimate ones. But at some point it goes too far. Have we come to believe, albeit unwittingly, that materialism wrapped in sentiment is the spirit of Christmas?

Thankfully, signs of the true meaning of Christmas still abound. A new movie, The Nativity Story, has opened in theaters to good reviews (read Christianity Today's review). The movie reminds us, once again, that Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation: the fact that God became man and dwelt among us. May we find time, during this busy season, to ponder the mystery of the birth of the Savior.

Classics on Christmas

Is Christmas Necessary?
Jerry Solomon
What do you think of when you hear the word "Christmas"? Frantic shopping? Family traditions? A commemoration of the birth of Jesus? Or a combination of all these responses and more?

The Drama of the Christmas Story
Jack L. Walker, Jr.
Directing his childrens' Christmas play reminds the author of the true significance of the Nativity.The story of the birth of Christ is really an introduction to the rest of Christ's life: his passion and resurrection.

The Star of Bethlehem
Ray Bohlin
What explains the strange phenomenon of the star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to the newborn Christ, an astronomical event or the Shekinah Glory, manifesting God's presence among men?

The Theology of Christmas Music
Robert A. Pyne
Most radio stations play some type of Christmas music during the holiday season, but many of the songs have become so familiar to us that we no longer consider their content.

America's Messiah
Michael Linton
The reason for the popularity of Handel's Messiah in America, particularly during the Christmas season, says more about Americans than it does about its famous composer.

Christmas on Mars Hill
Peter Hiett
"Incarnation is the stuff from which the kingdom of God is constructed. It's the real beauty of Christmas, the kind of Christmas that should go with us everywhere we go (Athens, the jungle, your teen's high school, the mall, the office). Christmas was never meant to happen just once a year."

Mere Christianity
Edward H. Pauley
As any reputable historian can attest, movements and institutions have a way of changing over time, sometimes within one generation, so that they are almost unrecognizable to later observers. Historic, orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, has maintained an identity and continuity at its core for nearly two thousand years. Why is this so?

Is the War Against Christmas Worth Fighting?
Patrick Rist
Rist wonders, "Is fighting the culture war for legality of the phrase 'Merry Christmas' rather than 'Season's Greetings' really worth all the effort?" This is a blog entry from Antecedents, a blog about Christian thought and university culture (opens on a separate site).

On Not Permitting the Other to Be Other
Richard John Neuhaus
The editor-in-chief of First Things Journal takes another swipe at the book, Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State (New York University Press). This is the main portion of his weekly review of the culture.

Related Articles: New Year's

Starting Over
James Nuechterlein
Starting over--the idea appeals to all of us, and not only in our jobs. This explains the otherwise (to me) inexplicable appeal of the New Year's holiday. New year, new possibility. This time I'll get it right.