Is It “Hark, the Herald Angels” or “Blue Christmas”?

The Christmas Holiday seems fraught with inconclusiveness and confusion.  Polls say a majority think of it as a religious holiday instead of a secular one.  But, its commercialization, music and festivities are becoming less religious.

It was interesting to learn side by side celebration of the religious and the secular has been happening since day one.  We all know Christmas moved into the space previously occupied by the Pagan celebration of Winter Soltice.  I didn’t know they apparently existed together for a long time.

Soltice is a time to celebrate the end of shorter days and arrival of longer ones.  Good gods  defeated bad ones at soltice.

When Christianity arrived the celebration of Christmas did not come with it.  So, early Christians celebrated the Pagan soltice for many generations.  It was only later the myth  Jesus was born at this time was introduced and Pagan celebrations were pushed over the cliff.  We did keep the Pagan tree.

Today’s music in the malls and on the airways is majority secular it seems to me.  Even the traditional hymns are upgraded to reflect contemporary styles.

Like in earlier times, then, the secular/cultural celebration, known way back as soltice, existed along side the religious, Christian.   Instead of calling contemporary trends a “War on Christmas”, perhaps it would better be called “Return to the Ancient TwoferOne.”

Anyway, I’m enjoying a secular Christmas Eve and just heard Blue Christmas. I hope you heard your favorite, religious or secular.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/christmas-history-the-pagan-traditions-111374/

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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33 Responses to Is It “Hark, the Herald Angels” or “Blue Christmas”?

  1. StanB says:

    Happy holidays Jon.

    Just want to clarify one thing. Early Christians did not celebrate pagan holidays. They may have existed side by side, but I doubt there was any overlap of celebrants.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Stan 2:53 Merry Christmas–thanks for being here.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Stan 2:53 “Just want to clarify on thing. Early Christians did not celebrate pagan holidays.”

      I think you have to be wrong about this. Among pagans at that time there were many gods, a god for this a god for that. In fact, there was not a “pagan” religion, paganism is sort of a generic term for many patterns of belief.

      So here comes someone with a new god, “I like what they are saying about that god, I’ll just work him in with the others.” Soltice had been a time of celebration for hundreds of thousands of years. Here it comes and the Christian god is not celebrating anything, so, “I love this soltice god too. Let’s celebrate.”

      I think you are putting your logic into the heads of people two thousand years ago. In you mind, the pagan gods don’t exist. In their minds, they did exist. The Jewish faith, revised to appeal to pagans, was trying to convince pagans there was only one god, but it took a long time.

      There are two pieces of evidence many people were both pagan and Christian at the same time. 1.) The warnings one must not worship the other gods that were around (such a warning would not be necessary if people were not worshiping them) and 2.) establishment of the myth that Jesus was born on soltice (that was necessary because people were celebrating with the wrong gods.)

      • Wolfy32 says:

        It is funny, without realization my family honors winter solstice…

        My mom constantly brings up around Christmastime that now the days will get longer and it’ll be sunnier. Heh. I agree, something to be excited about, I just find it funny that without realization she is giving honor to winter solstice and even she finds it convenient that this time or being happy the days will get longer is at the same time as Christmas…

        I think if she realized that they may be in competition with each other, she’d be calling blasphemy on herself…

  2. Michael Ross says:

    I’ll mention one other conflict of the season. Near the end of the 19th century, Jewish retailers(don’t accuse me of being anti-Semite, I’m not anti anyone) and bankers in New York began to push Christmas as a commercial event. Began promoting Santa and pushing Christ out. Apparently Santa was more profitable than Jesus. Before this time Christmas was family and church. If you had good year financially you gave to those less fortunate, a needy family, a mission,a charity, someone that is doing good. We give gifts because the Wise men brought gifts from across the world to present to baby Jesus. Jesus is not here in the flesh as He was 2000 years ago but we still give to Him. He gave us the pattern Himself:

    “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did :it to Me.”(Matthew 25:35-40)

    Sounds like you are enjoying your evening, Jon. Good for you. My family is watching a stupid secular Christmas movie, “Elf”. They are enjoying themselves so I will do what I enjoy, posting on your blog. Have a great evening and Merry Christmas.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 4:27 And a Merry Christmas to you.

    • entech says:

      Michael, Just a thought about commercial things, if Jews do not accept that your Jesus is their Messiah with the natural corollary being that Santa C and J C are both non existent the natural thing to do would be to promote the thing that is going to be most viable from a business viewpoint. As most Christians on this site seem to follow some sought of free market and/or libertarian ideology surely they would agree that this is the correct way to go.

      Peace and Goodwill Happy Hanuka. Shalom Merry Christmas

    • Avatar of realist realist says:

      Your observation about Jewish retailers and bankers, giving them credit for pushing Jesus out of Christmas is on shaky ground because some of the biggest retailers and bankers at that time were Christians. Why didn’t they resist? In fact, today, the majority of bankers and retailers, Christians all, employ even more grotesque marketing ploys to further commercialize this holiday from your standpoint. It would follow that you would not criticize people who don’t believe in a Christian god, but you would target bankers and retailers for taking Jesus out of Christmas, but you don’t. For example, Sarah Palin has stated that the commercialization of Christmas “honors” Jesus. True? If Sarah says it, it must be. But go ahead and blame 19th century Jewish merchants and bankers for what we see today. It’s called scapegoating.

  3. Doug says:

    Michael Ross says: “(don’t accuse me of being anti-Semite, I’m not anti anyone)”.

    No, Michael?
    . . . just anti-GAY!

  4. Avatar of Mac Mac says:

    Ricky and I heard a wonderful sermon tonight at a very conservative Christian Church. (ours is a family FULL of church musicians. Including Ricky, and on occasion I)

    This wonderful evening spent with our equally wonderful children, I reflect upon if the message of Jesus, (which has pretty much stayed the same since I’ve read it) has been perverted (intended choice of words) by people who have been in position to manipulate scripture over the centuries.

    To ridiculously over-simply the message of Jesus: “Just worry about your own crap, and knock it off when it comes to others. You are in so many ways not in position to address that.”

    Merry Christmas!

  5. H.P.Drifter says:

    “For whom the bell tolls”

    “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Do you think Christianity will survive a hundred years from now?

    Do you think it will become someone else that meets the peoples present needs?

    Or will be become a respected fairy tale tucked away in literature for all to read?

    How do you see it?

  6. Wanna B Sure says:

    The Advent of the already, but not yet. Have a peaceful one.

  7. Brad Campbell says:

    ….”the myth Jesus was born….”

    Jon, he did exist. More than one civilization documented his existence at that time.

    Merry Christmas to all!

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Brad 1:34 Merry Christmas to you, Brad.

      “Jon, he did exist.” Please, quote the entire sentence which says its a myth Jesus was born on Dec. 25. So far as I know there is not a shred of evidence he was born on Dec. 25. There are, certainly, arguments that a Jewish preacher with common name of Jesus existed, maybe there were several.

  8. Doug says:

    For anyone interested, here’s the link to the opening credits of The Simpsons’ winter version of their animated opening credits. Carefully watch around when the time counter reads 23-24 seconds. You’ll notice a sign in the background referencing March 28th as the birth of Christ.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4riW8XnT0PI

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Doug 4:18 “You’ll notice a sign in the background referencing March 28th as the birth of Christ.”

      Thank you for giving us a heads up on that sign. It’s sort of a secret message embedded in something else like the Da Vinci Code. :)

  9. Michael Ross says:

    The actual birthday of Jesus was sometime in the fall (September or October) rather than in December. The date is of lesser consequence, however, than the reason for the celebration (Isaiah 1:18).

    Counting back nine months from around September puts us pretty close to the end of the previous December. Perhaps our sovereign God has orchestrated events so that we would celebrate the real miracle of the conception: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

    A message here for the pro-abort crowd??

  10. Michael Ross says:

    Great article on the overlooked political and economic lessons of Christ’s birth:

    http://www.infowars.com/the-economic-lessons-of-bethlehem-2/

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 7:20 It was interesting. The problem with the entire Bethlehem myth is there are records of other census’ by the Romans during the general window of time, but none during the time of the alledged birth of Jesus. Thus, there is no explanation nor any logical reason Mary and Joeseph were in Bethlehem. The reason the writer put the story there was to conform to the Old Testament. If the prophesie was to be fulfilled, the writer had to make up some reason for them to be there–he made up the tax/census decree. I’ve read many critiques of the Bethelem myth, here is the first one that came up on googel today:

      http://dustinsimmons.blogspot.com/2011/12/decree-from-caesar-augustus-roman.html

      • entech says:

        Jon, as you might expect, I find the account in your reference far more convincing. It seems more in keeping with history and practice of the period and was written by someone who has studied the period.
        Michael, your article just looks like more twisting and turning to make a preconceived notion fit history, and where it does not fit history must change.
        Alex Jones? we have similar here, say anything but the truth, extreme views put in extreme language. I am rather proud of my adopted city, we had one similar, also named Jones that had his radio program put on local radio, very popular with his target audience, lasted three weeks here.

  11. entech says:

    Why all the fuss about a birth date. Paul the real founder of Christianity never mentions much about the birth and life his interest is in the death and resurrection. And even when he does there is no mention of anything special about the birth.
    But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

    • Wolfy32 says:

      That’s an inconsistancy I find strange. All the angels, all the divine intervention over Christ’s birth. Then… Nothing for the next 20 years. I mean zero, zilch, nothing! What was he like as a 5 or 6 year old? What was Christ like as a 10-12 year old? What was he like at 13-16. Did he chase girls? Did he chase boys, did he have no interestin anything? What chores did he like doing or not doing…. Did he obey his parents a lot or did he rebel?

      There’s the HUGE angelic announcement of the virgin birth…Then a few years pass by and the wisemen show up. Then nothing, until the stories of finding the desciples and recruiting believers.

      No angelic intervention announcing Christ’s birth of the virgin Mary or anything like that.

      For something that was so important and so big to all of humanity…. It seems like the huge event of Christ’s birth and childhood are all forgotten about later on.

  12. kay syvrud says:

    The only reason I love the winter solstice is that it means the earth is tipping southward again and we will have longer days and shorter nights.
    I dislike Oct-Nov-Dec with a passion due to the loss of daylight as these months progress.
    It is nothing to celebrate. Just be glad the darkest time of the year is over.
    Now Christ coming to earth as “God With Us” (Emmanuel)..that IS something to celebrate!!! But HE never told us to celebrate his birth….HE did tell us to remember HIS death and why HE died…..for us and in our place (atonement).
    Christians remember His death each time they celebrate what most Christians call “communion”. I think of it as remembering Christ’s death.

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