Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bad Christmas Songs and Why I Don't Care If Christmas Is Historically Accurate

Total non-sequitor, but still awesome.

by Ben Howard

Yesterday I was on Facebook and noticed a status update from a high school friend. They pointed out the absurdity of the Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?” by reminding everyone that, yes, she did know. Gabriel told her. She knew. Question answered.

In the comments underneath, someone else pointed out the ridiculous nature of the song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which was written to raise money for a famine in Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia has a majority Christian population and has had for centuries, the answer once again is, yes, they probably do know that it is Christmas. They have been celebrating it since before the United States was a country (It’s called Genna and is celebrated on January 7th per the Julian calendar, RESEARCH WIN!).

I jokingly responded to the thread saying that pointing out the flaws in “Mary, Did You Know?” presupposed a literal belief in angels. I mean if you think the Gabriel part of the story is a myth then she probably didn’t know. Of course, this doesn’t even get into the realm of whether or not the virgin birth is historically accurate.

This all reminded me of the news a few weeks back the Pope Benedict XVI (aka Emperor Palpatine) released a book that challenged the traditional view of the manger scene and the way Christians represent the birth of Christ. It also reminded me of Christmas sermons when I was little. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve been told that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th, but was probably born in March or April, you know, because of the shepherds being in the field.

Here’s the secret though if you really want to “get” Christmas and “the reason for the season,”: It doesn’t matter what actually happened. It’s shocking, I know, but when it comes to the historical accuracy of the birth narrative, or Christmas traditions, or what day we celebrate the Incarnation, I really don’t care and you probably shouldn’t either.

You don't know that this ISN'T how it happened.
Now, this is the exact opposite of saying that the birth narrative and Christmas traditions aren’t important, they are very important; it just doesn’t matter if they happened in the same way that we say they happened. You see, the secret of Christmas isn’t that these events happened and we need to remember them as our past, but that they continue to happen and we need to live into them as our future.

The time of waiting, hope, expectation, and longing that we experience in Advent is representative of something we always feel and the celebration and excitement at the birth and incarnation of Christ is something that is always present. Christmas is the exemplification of our lives as Christians who live in a world which is already, but not yet redeemed.

It’s good to strip away and poke fun at the commoditization of Christmas, and it’s necessary to clean off the historical detritus that often overwhelms the legitimacy of the Christmas experience, but ultimately we don’t need to discover “what really happened” because we aren’t celebrating the past, we are acknowledging the present and living into the future.

That we may know and be known, love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven. That we may receive grace and be redeemed and that we may show grace and bring redemption.


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