Friday, December 21, 2007

No "Merry Christmas" in Middle-earth! Ban on Tolkien Sure to be Announced

Did you realize that in Middle-earth they did not celebrate Christmas? Even worse, the midwinter holiday in The Shire lasted two days and was called by that pagan name "Yule". I even heard they had Yule logs and said to each other "Have a cool Yule," instead of "Merry Christmas". Just wait until Donald Wildmon and Go Fish* find out about this.

Seriously, Tolkien's Middle-earth is supposed to pre-date Christ. Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the movies, made a big deal out of the fact that there are no churches in The Shire. But the reason there are no churches in Middle-earth is because the stories pre-date the Church, not because Tolkien's beliefs are completely hidden or excluded. But we are in the Church Age; what should our attitude be about "Christmas"?

Go Fish has a rather in-you-face song titled "It's called Christmas." The chorus goes like this:

It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else, but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital "C."

The song begins with a bit of spoken diatribe against those who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Don't get me wrong. I make a conscious effort to say "Merry Christmas" to people when it is appropriate. But using the phrase "Happy Holidays" does not necessarily mean the well-wisher is consciously avoiding the term "Christmas." The generic greeting is, first and foremost, shorthand for "Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." And when we talk about the "Holiday Season" in today's culture we are usually including Thanksgiving as well. Not everyone who says "Happy Holidays" or "Holiday Season" has insidious motives, as some might have us to believe! I remember when I worked at a job where I completed transactions with customers. This time of year I would mix up my closing remarks to avoid sounding stilted: "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or even "Have a great evening." With the attitude of some today, I'm almost afraid to say "Happy Holidays" lest someone think I am a Heathen!

On the other hand, some of the nonsense from the other side of the issue is just ridiculous. Calling a Christmas tree a "Holiday tree". Silly. One ad even went so far as to say that their item would cause joy when it was unwrapped on "Holiday morning." Come on. Have we really come that far in this culture that we are afraid to call things what they are lest we offend anyone?

I remember in the 1960's and 70's (Man, am I old!) that the big deal was X-mas. Don't put X-mas on your store signs--that's blasphemy! That's X-ing Christ out of Christmas. It wasn't until later that I discovered that Christians have been using "X" for Christ since the First Century. The letter X looks exactly like the Greek letter Chi (pronounced khee), which is the first letter in Christos--Christ. (Most students who went to a Christan College know that Xian and Xnty are the quick way to write "Christian" and "Christianity" while taking notes.)

A ladies singing trio from the late 50's and early 60's calledThe White Sisters sang a song titled "Keep Christ in Christmas." I don't know if the whole X-mas controversy "inspired" the song or not. I don't remember all the lyrics, but part of it talks about letting "Christ have first place" at this time of year. It does not seem to me that Christ is having First Place in most of the complaining about and campaigning against "Happy Holidays". When Wildmon sends out his e-mail newsletter saying "Send me money because I'm getting Christmas back into the stores," is Christ getting First Place? I wonder. When the average person sees "Christmas Tree" instead of "Holiday Tree" is he more likely to think of the "true meaning of Christmas"? I wonder.

Christmas is about giving, not winning. Christ Himself was the first Christmas gift. If Wildmon and others spent as much time giving themselves to feed the poor, visit the sick and generally spread goodwill among men, as they do organizing boycotts and sending threatening e-mails, I think we would be better off.

Some time in the next couple days: The Christmas Spirit as exemplified in Frodo Baggins.

*Note, for those who might not know: Donald Wildmon is the founder of the American Family Association and has called for boycotts of stores that use "Holiday" instead of "Christmas" in their advertisements. Go Fish is a contemporary Christian Band that sings "It's Called Christmas." Read more about the song in the article above.

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