Either, Neither, or Both?

Christmas… as we celebrate in North America … is a strange combination of traditions, myths and legends, images and symbols.

The Biblical narrative has been distorted into an incredible story that now seems set in stone… do not criticize, alter, or omit any element. The cast and the script for the pageant is unalterable, the musical score is set, and the figures in the crèche must be just so!

The whole community is pressured to celebrate and respect the nativity narrative… a muddle of disputed truths, untruths, half-truths, and fabrications… overladen with pagan tradition, and wrapped up with secular invention and commercial exploitation.

If… and it is a very large IF… I could believe any part of the narrative, I would want to know what is irrefutable core information and delete the rest, I would want to banish the pagan additions, and I  would want to ignore the secular and commercial. I would not want Walmart or other large merchandisers to say “Merry Christmas”; indeed, I would want to forbid it. For a true believer, even the word “merry” would be suspicious. “Happy Christmas”, spoken reverently to fellow believers would honour the miracle of their saviour’s birth much better than participation in the  raucous circus they claim takes its origin from their miracle.

Can you have the HOLY DAY without the HOLIDAY… the HOLIDAY without the HOLY DAY?

Do we want either, neither, or both?

Christmas is an astonishing mixture from many sources. The challenge is to sort them out, recognize the incongruities and inconsistencies, and be honest with ourselves about what we are celebrating and why.

This article by  Austin Cline,  Nativity vs Gospels:Are the Gospels Reliable About Jesus’ Birth reviews the discrepancies. Do click the underlined title; the article is worth your attention.

After dealing with each discrepancy in turn, he concludes:

When we look back at the standard nativity story and its myriad of sources, we should begin to realize that what people take for granted as “the” nativity story today isn’t presented in neat, straightforward terms in the Bible. It is, instead, a cultural creation that has been carefully woven together over the centuries from the bits and pieces found not just in the gospels, but in other parts of the Bible as well.It would be simple to say that the nativity story people find so engrossing today couldn’t possibly have happened as they experience it. Indeed, it’s not even possible for believers today to claim the Bible as an authoritative source for their story because it just doesn’t appear as they tell it. This does not do justice to the phenomenon, however, because what is most significant is that the story people tell today is as much a creation of their own community as were the elements created by the early Bible authors.Most people probably don’t even realize what is going on.

Here is Christopher Hitchens explaining the same distortions.

And here is an interesting explanation of the pagan part of the tradition.

Can you have the HOLY DAY without the HOLIDAY…

the HOLIDAY without the HOLY DAY? 

Do we want either, neither, or both?


In any event, whatever YOU celebrate, may it be wonderful!

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4 Responses to Either, Neither, or Both?

  1. debbierodgers says:

    Ellen, I didn’t watch all the videos but my short answer is: neither.

    And that is not a popular stand.

  2. motleydragon says:

    It may not be a popular stand, but I think it is both honest and courageous.

    I find it hard to understand how thinking people like us, with the maturity to know our own minds and the courage to make our own decisions, have so much trouble resisting peer pressure.

    We minimize Christmas here at home, and there are no outside lights in the trees. But I did buy gifts for the grandkids, and I did go to the guild potluck supper. When I find myself unavoidably in one of those Yule Yells, I refuse to sing along, but I don’t walk out… at least I haven’t yet. I wonder what it is like in the schools here now?

    My husband sang for many years with the Bach Elgar Choir, and the Messiah is always part of our Christmas. I wish it were in Latin or German, so I could enjoy the music without having to think about the words!

    Thank you for your comment, and the email which gave me food for thought.

    And Happy Holidays! Ellen

    • debbierodgers says:

      Isn’t it ironic that I, as a woman of faith and you, a considered atheist, should stand up to peer pressure on this same issue, and agree on the decision but not the reasons in the making of the decision?

      We do maintain our stand. My husband and I give our grandkids gifts when the mood strikes, and without waiting for a special day when they are often overstimulated and overtired anyway. (This issue “You have to have Christmas for the kid!” – brings us some of the greatest negative feedback).

      Good for you for keeping the holiday to a minimum. We try to avoid malls and other public areas during December. I spent 35 years singing Christmas carols before I considered the origins of Christmas and changed my mind about celebrating) and even now (23 years on) the tunes sometimes become ‘earworms’ complete with the words to 3 verses & the chorus. We made a decision earlier this year to discontinue the cable TV and are watching only DVDs now, and I try not to listen to the radio until the second week of January.

      It was harder when I worked in an office and sat out all the staff holiday lunches and gift exchanges, but it was doable. My husband makes sure to book those critical working days at his home office or on the road.

      So we have opted out of Christmas completely, and yet remain convinced that the Bible is reliable & trustworthy (What – how can this be?)

      The thing is, I recognize that each person makes the choice for him or herself and am not angry with those who choose to celebrate, however faulty the reasoning behind that is. A woman I once knew was fond of saying that “Tolerance belongs to those with greater vision.” That too is part of the burden of discernment.

      Warm regards, Debbie

  3. Sufiya says:

    Christmas/Yule is actually a fairly minor festival in the grand scheme of things; Yule is categorized as a “minor sabbat” in Pagan tradition. Imbolc (Feb.2) Beltane (May 1) Lammas (Aug.1) and Samhain (Nov.1) are the “greater sabbats”, but being Goddess-connected, have been trivialized out of existence . However, to be fair, only TWO of the solar sabbats (Yule and Eostre) are acknowledged in the modern day. of course both have been contrived by the Church to be the “birth day” and the “death day” of the reigning “deity” (Jesus is not actually a “deity” but an “avatar”); the fact is, if Jesus was born at the time of the census as the Bible states, then he would have been a LIBRAN (or a SCORPIO); the census was traditionally taken at the time the harvest was all in and accounted for, which is, of course OCTOBER (hence the symbolism of the scales, a device for weighing and measuring) Also, sheep were traditionally PENNED IN for the winter; if shepherds had in fact been “watching their flocks by night” at the time of Jesus’s birth then it was NOT YET “winter”!

    But , Yule being the time when the SUN was (re-) “born” (the days starting to get longer at this time) the Church chose to ‘piggyback” upon this particular imagery for the birth of the “SON”. Eostre traditionally being a time of ‘sacrifice’, thus was chosen for the time of the deity’s “death”, being a “sacrifice” for all of humanity and so on and so forth. It never ceases to amaze me that the holy rollers never catch on to the fact that Jesus would have “died for the sins” of humanity UP TO THAT POINT i.e. AD 33, and NOT the subsequent lot that came AFTER; thus the notion that “Jesus died for your sins” is a CROCK OF CRAP.

    In fact, it’s certainly NO WONDER that people regard the WHOLE of Christianity as a “CROCK OF CRAP” because for the most part, THAT’S WHAT IT IS. The reason nobody can ‘find God” in Christianity is because GOD is TRUTH, and Christianity being a PACK OF LIES, for the most part, (Jesus is definitely not “a lie”, but the mythology contrived around him sure is!) one ends up like the drunk looking for his keys a block over from where he actually lost them because “there’s more light here”.

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