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Sunday, December 25, 2005 

Always Winter, Never Christmas

The title of this post is Narnian, a description of the world as it was when in the grip of the White Witch. Coincidentally, Dante saw the lowest circle of Hell as equally cold and inert, with Satan eternally gnawing on the trapped souls frozen into his maw. Hardly a satisfying meal.

The description, to my mind, is apt, if not for the dead, then for the living. When I am wracked with sin or tormented by my failings, static is how I feel. That I will never change, that I cannot change. There is no hope, no future, only an everlasting present of pain, sorrow, disappointment, despair, anger, bitterness, etc. In these moments, I often find that, although I rationally know that they can't go on forever, I can't really believe that. I am stuck in a pattern of sin, because it is all that I know how to do, all I can do. I am inert.

Winter is my least favorite of the seasons (perhaps because I grew up in Florida). While I enjoy snowfall as much as anyone (I had a branch president on my mission tell me that "winter covers all our sins in white"), eventually the vantage point changes to a miasma of dirt, grime, ice, and soot. There is no hidden sin here as the white brings out all the spotty rotten color of the world and it is all a dull-gray muddy brown. There is no joy here.

And then we get Christmas. I know some people complain because Christ very probably wasn't born on Christmas and that we are actually celebrating a pagan holiday. I know that some people believe that Christian aspects of of Christmas are being swallowed up in the consumerism of our national day of spending. But I don't buy it.

So long as Christmas exists, then here is hope, joy, and peace in the midst of despair. A reason to smile on a dark, dreary plain. A warm spark in the twilight, frozen world wherein our dirt and filth is shown back to us in high contrast. It gives us light in the midst of the darkest part of our year.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Rabbit Hill. Naturally, I read its sequel, The Tough Winter. I hated it. The nice bunnies and other denizens of Rabbit Hill were being put through such a tough time and I couldn't understand why. In the midst of it came Christmas. Some kind soul laid out a feast for the starving denizens of Rabbit Hill, who hadn't eaten for so long.

Christmas is our feast, a reminder of the true bread and the true water that came down to feed us. It is a gift, given us by kind caretakers and good providers. In the wake of the recent movie, many critics have dryly noted that Father Christmas provides the Pevensies with weapons. But Christmas is a weapon, an opportunity to fight back at the dark that envelops us and gain a little breathing room that can last until the coming of spring, signalled by the commemoration of the death of He whose birth we celebrate today. It is appropriate, perhaps necessary, that the winter of our discontent be broken midway by a reminder of He who broke its back.

I know that we are all at different stages in our spiritual lives, but I get the impression that we are all believers. Please, use Christmas as a moment to celebrate that which is good and useful in the world and revel in the knowledge that winter, in life as in Narnia, will eventually end and the sun and flowers will shine upon us again.


Posted by John C.

Wonderful post. Which of y'all wrote it?

Um, I did. I am confused as to why it doesn't have my name. My name is present on the MA site though.

Also, thanks. I was worried that it was too preachy.

It was not preachy at all friend. As always it was well done and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us today. You are such a blessing.

John...I am always blown away and impressed with your posts. This one was especially meaningful to me. Christmas is usually my time of celebration of all that is good. I've had a hard time focusing on all of that this year. Thank you for bringing it 'home' for me.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

If it's going to come out this thoughtful and positive, then preach away, brother, preach away.

As not only a former Mormon, but a former Christian, I have a slightly different feeling toward Christmas itself. I just wanted to say that your insights into Christmas sparked some thought in me. Before I get to that I would like to make a comment on what you said about sin. You said, “When I am wracked with sin or tormented by my failings, static is how I feel. That I will never change, that I cannot change. There is no hope, no future, only an everlasting present of pain, sorrow, disappointment, despair, anger, bitterness, etc.” I know this feeling all to well myself, however I do not associate this with the 'sin' itself; rather I found it to be the guilt that is attached to the 'sin' through dogma. The way I see it Guilt is different from remorse and regret. Remorse and regret allow to you acknowledge that you are out of alignment with your morality and that an adjustment is needed. Guilt never lets you forget it and will use it against you to keep you imprisoning; much like you are frozen in a block of ice. It has taken me a while to overcome the negative stigma of guilt the church had bestowed upon me, in some ways I am still fighting it off.

Now about Christmas. I like what you said, “So long as Christmas exists, then here is hope, joy, and peace in the midst of despair. A reason to smile on a dark, dreary plain. A warm spark in the twilight, frozen world wherein our dirt and filth is shown back to us in high contrast. It gives us light in the midst of the darkest part of our year.” to go back to the argument about Christmas's validity in Christian tradition. Do you think it is not a coincidence that Christmas became attached to the Indo-Eruropian pre-Christian traditions of Winter solstice? Winter solstice is often seen as the time of the soler deities birth (or in some variations, its conception). Isn't interesting that they saw this birth occur during the darkest night of the year? Not to mention that the story of christ mirrors in many ways different indo-European traditions telling of a sacrificial king, who is often associated with the sun?

If you are wondering if I am pagan; I am an animist, I do not like the negative conintation implied in the vague and ambiguous use of the word pagan, and I have no connections to the modern witchcraft/wiccan and neo-pagan movement. I thought I would share my thoughts as an Ex-Mromon now Animist on Christmas's meaning and origins.

Hope you all had a happy holiday season – whatever holidays those may be.

Thank you, Arthur. I appreciate your thoughts.

So... Is this blog dead now?

It sure seems that way... what a disappointment, I really enjoyed it while it lasted.

Interesting thoughts, Arthur.

I too am sad this blog is dead (or hibernating). It was a great read.

Yeah, where are you guys? I've been checking in here every day (almost) for forever. What's up with this????

I'm becoming alarmed.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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