Current issue

April 2024

  • Leading Worship Without a Minister
  • New Life for Church Buildings
  • Scottish Love in Action


Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Recovery of Christmas

Looking Back

Image: archives-piccropped.jpg


Looking Back: Recovery of Christmas

From December 1962

For long, Scotland scarcely recognised Christmas, because of old-time conflicts over false observances.

Then came a change. In our churches we began to remember the birth of Christ with the rest of Christendom. We made it an opportunity to recall the deepest meanings of the Incarnation.

But at the same time the exploitation of Christmas as a festive-gift season also began. Now it is beginning difficult to see Christmas for the festivity and the ‘gifting’ – to see the wood for the Trees.

So we are in a curious position in Scotland. How good that we ‘observe’ Christmas once again? Yes. But how difficult to observe it rightly.

We need, in a sense, to recover now from the recovery of Christmas. How to set about it?

Question One: how shall we spend at Christmas? The article which follows deals with this question. Aren’t many of us spending too much on the wrong people? Shouldn’t we as Christians be giving a lead, setting an example, of wise spending – inexpensive gifts as ‘mindings’ to old friends, careful spending for the children, in case they too lose Christmas in finding the Christmas season? Christmas cards? There are plenty of beautiful cards published for good causes – why not buy them rather than the very expensive cards? Festive fare? Without being puritanical, we can have remembrance of the hungry of the world and set aside something for them as a definite part of our Christian giving, while keeping our own feasting within proper bounds, as befits those who are making themselves one with all their needy brethren ‘in Christ’s name’.

Question two: how shall we spend Christmas? We who are Christians can attempt to recover the true Christmas by making our thanksgiving in the House of God the centre of the season, not an ‘extra’. We have a duty here, even as an example. There is an enormous pressure all around us to think of Christmas in other ways, to exhaust ourselves (and how many find the Christmas season exhausting) in the round of festivities, and to give the left-over of our time and energies and liberality to the Christ who is the centre, the cause, the whole meaning of the Season. We ought to keep Christmas, to HOLD Christmas, all the more firmly because of these pressures to forget the real meaning of it.

Christmas is a ‘children’s time’ certainly. It is NOT the ‘children’s festival’. It is the whole Church’s festival in thanksgiving for the birth of a Saviour. And its meaning is that we needed a Saviour, that we had to be saved from our sins, that ‘while we were yet sinners’ Christ came and Christ died for us.

This is Christmas as we believe it; and all our actions, our spending and our withholding from spending, our happiness in our homes and our joy in the House of God, should be true to it.

Looking Back menu

Life and Work is the magazine of the Church of Scotland. Subscribe here.