It’s Still Christmas

nativity iconMerry Christmas!

One of the sad things about living in a secular nation is that people understand very little about the real meaning of Christmas. For example, many people take their trees down on 26 December, mistakenly thinking Christmas is “over.” In reality, the Christian celebration of the Nativity of Jesus only begins on Christmas Day!

The commercial world celebrates the season of Advent and deceptively calls it “Christmas.” These weeks, which should mark a spiritual preparation akin to Lent, are instead transformed into a frantic race to accumulate the perfect gifts to show others just how much we value each of them. And, since we love our family and close friends, there is a constant temptation to be far more extravagant in our gift giving than we can afford.

Returning to the season of Christmas, in which we find ourselves this day . . . we discover a brief occasion to focus our spiritual reflections on the singular Christmas miracle, the Incarnation. God becoming a human being. The Word through whom all things were created, becoming a mortal like the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve fashioned in his own likeness.

Christmas is, indeed, a glorious season.

C.S. Lewis had many insights into the Incarnation miracle. It is most certainly worthy of our serious attention. If it did not actually happen, Jesus should be dismissed altogether, for he claimed to be one with our heavenly Father. However, as Lewis declared in Miracles, “If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth.”

One of the great literary treasures of the world is a precious book written before the year Anno Domini 318. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote a treatise called “On the Incarnation,” which makes great reading and is readily available online. A fairly modern translation was written by Sister Penelope Lawson, an Anglican nun.

Sister Penelope prevailed upon C.S. Lewis to write an introduction to her translation, in which he said, “This is a good translation of a very great book.” The full volume, complete with Lewis’ outstanding preface, is available. Here is just one of his gems:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.

Still, as wonderful as Lewis’ introductory comments are, the greatest treasures here are the bishop’s teachings about Jesus. To whet your appetite, taste the following wisdom from Athanasius’ own introduction to his work:

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

You can read the entire work at this site. Have a blessed Christmas season!

10 thoughts on “It’s Still Christmas

  1. Thank you, Rob, for these powerful insights from Lewis and Athanasius. This is a profound thought, that God effected both creation and salvation by the same Agent, his Son. I have tweeted this link to my Twitter followers, and I hope many encounter this page. Here’s to living out the true meaning of Christmas 365 days a year!

  2. I really like this line ” We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period” and your comments after it.
    Growing up, I always envied the kids whose families celebrated Christmas into January – ours was tree down quickly and all stuff packed away before you could blink. We did take several days to set up the nativity scene with the family arriving, then the angels visiting the shepherds in the “fields” before being placed by the manger…and the 3 kings slowly getting closer (from the east), but then Dec 26th over and done.
    Plan to check back and re-read when there’s more time. Great post
    Hope the new year brings joy, peace, adventures, and lots of thought to share. Thanks for all your efforts spent writing these posts

    1. Your home sounds like my own. We were so eager we opened all our gifts on Christmas eve, except for one from “Santa” that accompanied our stockings the next morning. At least your family got the use of the Nativity scene and manger right. A very visual lesson, watching the wise men’s progress. And yes, baby Jesus shouldn’t be there in the cradle until Christmas morning. Thanks for your encouragement and your own wonderful blog.

  3. Rob, I don’t know how else to let you know about this upcoming event:

    The C.S. Lewis Foundation cordially invites you
    to join us for our Twelfth Night potluck dinner and reception
    Hosted by Donald Nydam
    1632 Garden Street, Redlands
    Saturday, January 19, 2013
    at 5:30 p.m.

    Join us in commemorating the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s departure for Aslan’s country!

    We’ll be featuring the talents of violinist Frances Moore, pianist/harpsichordist Angela Brand, and soloist Darlene Ross.

    Professor Moore teaches violin at the University of California Riverside and Loyola Marymount University. She has played extensively in the Los Angeles Opera, the LA Mozart Opera, and in numerous film scores.

    Dr. Brand teaches at California Baptist University and performs regularly in southern California as a harpsichordist, pianist, and conductor.

    Darlene Ross is a speech pathologist at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. She is a graduate of Loma Linda University and sang as part of the Loma Linda University Church Sanctuary Choir.

    In addition to the fellowship and music, we will offer a report on the Foundation’s accomplishments in 2012 and the promise and challenges of 2013.

    Enjoy the company of friends, old and new!

    We hope to see you there!

    R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, January 18th
    by emailing or by replying directly to this message.

  4. I am in the middle of this very translation now. I’ve tried to make it a tradition to reread it every Advent. A very Merry Christmas to you! (And what a beautiful icon at the top of this post!)

Leave a Reply to philosophermouseofthehedge Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.