Whoa. I’ve been sooo busy that I’ve hardly stopped to think, much less think about the coming of Christmas–Advent. In fact, I’m so behindhand—my own fault entirely—that I’m prepping exams and grading papers instead of resting today. Still, a couple of things came to my attention this week that made me pause to reflect, and I wanted to share them.
1. Diana Butler Bass’s Advent Calendar reflections posted on the Sojourners blog. The one for December 4, linked above, meditates on traditions of the deer as a symbol of Christ and alludes to one of my favorite poems (also paraphrased into a hymn), “St Patrick’s Breastplate“.
2. Have you heard that the tradition of celebrating Christmas on December 25 was adopted from some existing pagan festival(s)? As is so often the case, the truth turns out to be more complicated and rather different, according to “Calculating Christmas” by William J. Tighe:
[I]t is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.
Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.
Read the whole thing!