Saturday 23 December 2023

Everything that is wrong about Christmas


About a year ago I stopped writing for a while. It was a combination of things. My mother died after a long battle with vascular dementia. She had looked after me and latterly I had returned the favour. That is how it should be. The hardest thing is to watch someone’s mind deteriorate. It happens so gradually that you hardly notice. In the end simple tasks become difficult.

She didn’t last three weeks in the hospital when she had a stroke, and I couldn’t care for her any longer. There was no ambulance to take her. Instead, I had to drive her in the middle of the night. Don’t go to a hospital if you can help it.

A few months later I went on holiday and came back to find the pipes had burst in an unusually cold spell. So, a year ago I was in a hotel room wondering what next? I didn’t feel much like writing and anyway access to the internet was poor and I had to share the only laptop with my husband.

But despite not living in my home the year has steadily improved. My house will soon be fixed and better than it was before. I’ve been able to find new inspiration and although loss doesn’t go away the pain lessens. Everyone has misfortune, everyone has to deal with loss whether in the form of relationship breakup, friends moving away or the loss of parents. The sure and certain hope is that it gets better. Never despair. I promise you it always gets better.

I don’t do anything much at Christmas. I decided a long time ago that I disliked what I was supposed to do, so I simply ceased doing it. This year my husband is in a place called Tantan in Morocco researching camel dung or some such thing that is important to him. The Internet connection is terrible and unfortunately, he cannot find someone else to pay because unfortunately when he first arrived in Scotland, he didn’t have the foresight to join the SNP in order to campaign to break up someone else’s country while keeping his own intact.

I’m also not much of a churchgoer. I believe in Christianity both intellectually and emotionally. My faith however came about because of my studies rather than my childhood. It was a choice based on reading Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky and a few other authors. I found church boring as a child and have never quite overcome that feeling. I agree with Milton on this

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly.

God does not need your praise and it is presumptuous to offer it.  “What a wonderful king you are” is insulting coming from me who am in no position to judge nor indeed to understand. Everything about Christianity is beyond our powers to understand. This is why it requires faith. To reject it because you don’t understand is to miss the point.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” is how we ought to respond to the Christian message, but it is not a bargain.  God doesn’t exact day labour. His yoke is mild. You gain no merit points or wages by going to Church every week, nor indeed by being a doer of the word.

I dislike most of all how Christmas has ceased to have anything to do with Christianity. It has been taken over by agnosticism, atheism and people of other faiths. Christians don’t have Hannukah parties where we light the menorah, nor do we fast during Ramadan and have parties afterwards during Eid. I would very much prefer that those who don’t believe didn’t wear Santa hats and Christmas jumpers. It’s a sort of mockery.

The best way to respect other faiths is to accept that we genuinely differ and that we disagree about something important. Neither Judaism, nor Islam nor any other faith believes that God became man on Christmas day and that he died on the cross and rose again on the third day. But if these things did not happen then Christmas, is an empty festival.

“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” There is nothing to celebrate. There is no good news.

It’s only because Christians did believe in the Incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus that the stories that are so familiar were collected and the tradition of marking the birth of Jesus began.

We live in a free society. You don’t have to believe in Christianity to give presents, eat turkey and pull crackers on the 25th of December, but you will excuse me if I don’t take therefore take part. I wish all genuine Christians refused to take part. That way we could leave Christmas for the atheists the agnostics the Muslims and the Hindus.

It is easy, but I think rather stupid to respond to the modern world by rejecting Christianity. It is stupid because it is precisely the rejection of Christianity that has left us with an emptiness that is filled with critical race theory, transgenderism, decolonisation and everything else that is being used to attack what Christians for two millennia protected.

It means that we have an opponent with a strong faith and the willingness to fight for it and die for it up against people who no longer believe in anything let alone themselves.

It is stupid above all because it does not plausibly account for the fact that something happened Bethlehem two thousand years ago and that this was recorded by people who believed that it really happened. The people who wrote about these things were not liars, nor were they charlatans. It doesn’t mean that God was born on Christmas day. It doesn’t mean that he died and was resurrected, but there is no question whatsoever that large numbers of people did believe that these events occurred because they thought reliable witnesses recorded what happened.

You have to account for those witnesses. They were all willing to die for their faith and many did. You don’t do that if you know that the gospels were a sort of novel. Something startling happened to record the birth of a poor Jewish boy. Something even more startling happened for his death to be recorded. Why was this crucifixion remembered when thousands of others were forgotten.

If you reject Christianity, you have to account for the New Testament and plausibly explain why it was written and why it went on to be read by more people than any other book. It’s not enough to say these people made it up or were deluded. It’s not a good enough explanation.

Doubt is part of faith. There can be no proof of miracles. All we have is a sure and certain hope. It is this faith that built Europe. It is this faith that defended our borders when nothing else would have been enough. It is I believe the collapse of this faith that will mean that Europe and Western society may not last another hundred years. So, by all means talk about sky fairies. By all means dismiss the Christmas story as a fairytale. But if you do don’t be surprised when your great grandchildren will have another story which they are not allowed to dismiss and another belief system that they are not allowed to reject, and it will be your fault.

So, I won’t be marking Christmas, but I will be grateful for a year which has at times been difficult, but which has shown me once more hope is the response to life’s troubles.

This year I discovered new friends and continued to interact with many valued friends who I may never meet in person. Your responses to my articles have made all the difference. These presents have been more valuable to me than frankincense and myrrh.

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be

I am fortunate to be where I am right now, because you have made me feel valued. I like to write. It gives me some purpose. It gives me the freedom to think and speak and be listened to.  Thank you everyone who reads and shares. You make an enormous difference to me.

Who can find a such readers? For their price is far above rubies.

Happy Christmas

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