Christmas as an Alternative Religion

Michael Gerson on Christmas:

Christmas has become a kind of alternative religion, offering watered-down versions of profound theological doctrines. Its miracles are found on 34th Street, not in Bethlehem. The visitation of Gabriel has become the visitation of Clarence, assuring us that it is a wonderful life. The modern cult of Christmas offers a domesticated form of transcendence. Naughty or nice instead of good or evil. A jolly old elf rather than an illegitimate child, destined for an early death…

I choose to take a more liberal view of the Christmas cult. Its tacky materialism can be unattractive. But the desire for Christmas miracles and visiting angels – for Tiny Tim not to die and for hooves on the rooftop and for George Bailey to be the richest man in town; for just one night of calm and hope – are not things to be lightly dismissed.

‘If I find in myself,’ says [C.S.] Lewis, ‘a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’ In this argument, the sentimental desires of Christmas are hints and rumors and reminders of a birth that somehow represents their culmination. Put another way: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.

One Response to Christmas as an Alternative Religion

  1. MatthewS December 24, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    I love this!

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