If there were less good will,” C. S. Lewis often said in December correspondence, “then we might have more peace on earth.
Odd to hear this from such a robust intellect as C.S. Lewis, but Dan DeWitt claims that Lewis “found no pleasure in the giving of generic winter cards, gift guilting, and the overall hurried pace of the Christmas season.” I find myself then in good company.
Generally being a Nuisance?
“One of the most comical examples of Lewis’s disdain comes from his essay “Delinquents in the Snow,” which begins with his thoughts on Christmas carolers:
At my front they are, once every year, the voices of the local choir … those of boys or children who have not even tried to learn to sing, or to memorize the words of the piece they are murdering. The instruments they play with real conviction are the door-bell and the knocker; and money is what they are after.
Another essay lays bare Lewis’s lack of seasonal zeal by the fitting title, “What Christmas Means to Me.” Lewis condemned the season for giving more pain than pleasure, for forcing itself upon people, for its preponderance of junk novelties, and for generally being a nuisance.”
Here we are some 70 years later lamenting the same litany. How far we’ve come from the simple joy of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” written from the greasy ashes of poverty of early 19th century England.
The Sun has Risen
“In his diaries, one of Lewis’s first recorded comments regarding Christmas is far from pleasant. He and his brother Warnie had spent the holiday with their widowed father. On their way to church early one morning, the siblings got into an argument with their father about the sunrise.
The brothers insisted the sun had indeed risen because they had enough light to find their way. Albert, their father, maintained that the sun had not risen because they could not yet see the sun itself. Lewis would later use this as a metaphor for the truth of the Incarnation, an event that revealed the way to life.”
In his essay “Is Theology Poetry?” Lewis echoes his earlier argument with his father. “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen,” he wrote, “not only because I can see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Incarnation: Key to unlocking the Mystery
“Lewis believed the Incarnation was the very key to unlocking the mystery of the universe. In his book Miracles, Lewis called the birth of Jesus “The Grand Miracle,” and he compared the Incarnation to the missing part of a novel or a symphony. This lost piece, once found, makes sense out of the rest. Christmas allowed Lewis to have a total worldview, a way of understanding both the universe and the human experience…
It wasn’t just the commercialization of Christmas that Lewis disdained. It was the trivialization of the historical event of Christ’s birth. Lewis thought the commercial racket should be detached from the remembrance of what the angels celebrated nearly 2,000 years ago. In a letter on December 19, 1952, Lewis wrote, “How wretchedly the Christian festival of Christmas has got snowed under by all the fuss and racket of commercialized ‘Xmas.’”…
For Lewis, the Incarnation was not something to be merely stamped on a card, drearily sung about in exchange for donations, or symbolized in a well-balanced exchange of gifts. It was an event that was either true or false. If false, it meant nothing; if true, it changed everything. There could be no middle ground. The birth of Christ was a light illuminating the entirety of human history—and one far too brilliant to be confined to a retail holiday.”
Dan DeWitt (PhD, Southern Seminary) is author of multiple books including Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World (The Good Book, 2018). He teaches theology and apologetics at Cedarville University and blogs regularly at theolatte.com.