Tag Archives: god rest ye merry

Of Twitter-Ingrates and Getting Dressed for Christmas

While thumbing through my Twitter feed earlier today, I saw this:


So I did. And the tweets I ended up reading reminded me of a line from King Lear: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child!” A few examples will suffice:

I’m yelling **** CHRISTMAS cause I only got 4 gifts under the tree.

I’m not even that excited for Christmas cuz I’m not getting an Xbox 360.

Only got an iPad 2 god mum I wanted a ****** iPhone 5 **** sake

And my mom went directly against me. she asked me if I wanted the black or white iPad. I said white, of course. tell me why mine is black..?

Well I guess I didnt get my much wanted iphone. **** my **** life and every ******* thing it.

Got That 60″ I Been Asking For, New PS3, & Like 4 Bills! No iPhone 5 Tho…

There’s something darkly funny about all this griping, and I’m tempted to make a crack about the fuzzy-wuzzy sentimentalists who think the Christmas season magically brings out the best in us. For now, however, I shall refrain. The point of this post lies elsewhere.

There’s this thing called the R.C. Sproul Jr. Principal of Hermeneutics, and the principal is this: “Whenever you see someone doing something really stupid in the Bible, do not say to yourself, ‘How can they be so stupid?’ Instead say to yourself, ‘How am I stupid, just like them?’”

This situation is different – I’m “studying” Twitter, not the Bible – but the basic idea still applies. So instead of adopting a self-righteous stance and giving these Twitter-Ingrates a condescending eye-roll, I should consider: how am I an ingrate, just like them?

I may not fill my Twitter feed with whining, railing, or blue language. I may not blog about how disappointing it was not to get that coveted iPhone (or what have you). I may not use Facebook as a way to vent my wrath against the cold and heartless universe.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not griping deep down inside.

In his book God Rest Ye Merry, Douglas Wilson observes that people are often trapped by “the expectations game” during the holidays:

Because everyone around you assumes that the day is going to be ‘really good,’ ‘special,’ or ‘fantastic,’ and is constantly telling you to have a ‘merry’ one, it is easy to assume that having a merry Christmas is an actual possession of yours, and if not a possession, at least a birthright. Consequently, the tendency is to sketch out in your mind what you would like that possession to be like. But it turns out, metaphorically speaking, that you get socks instead of the shotgun, or cookware instead of pearls, and the expectation lost is a set-up for real disappointment. This is one of the why holidays can be such an emotional roller coaster ride for so many, and Christmas is no exception.

Now take a look at Colossians 3:12-17, where Paul tells us,

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Says Wilson,

The text obviously deals with how we as Christians are to live all the time, and not just during the holidays. But the holidays are nothing other than what we normally do, ramped up to the next level. And so as we prepare our hearts for this celebration, ramp this up as well. Problems arise when we exert ourselves physically, emotionally, financially, and so on, and we don’t exert ourselves here. Think of this as getting dressed for the season – here, put this on. What should you put on? Tender mercies, kindness, humility of mind, meekness and patience (v. 12). That is holiday garb. When you are clothed this way, what are you dressed for? Snow pants are for going out in the snow, right? What is this clothing for? It is getting dressed for forbearance and forgiveness (v. 13). You are all dressed up and therefore ready to drop a quarrel, and to forgive  as you were forgiven (v. 13). But that is not enough – you need to put on another layer. Over everything else, put on charity, which is the perfect coat, the perfection coat (v. 14). When you have done that, what are you ready for? You are ready for peace with others, and that peace is saturated with gratitude (v. 15). You are also ready for some music, and particularly the music of grace and gratitude (vv. 15-16). And then, to crown all else, you are dress for everything – whatever you do, whether in word or deed, you can do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to the Father (v. 17).

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Christmas as War

“We do not just prepare for a Christmas full of delightful sentiment, family time, and happy nostalgia – although all these things are acknowledged and embraced by us. We celebrate Christmas, and everything that follows, as an act of war. War? What about peace on earth, good will toward men? Jesus also said that He did not come to bring peace on earth, but rather a sword. How may this be reconciled? Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but the peace He brings is not the peace of dithering diplomats, who like nothing better than to talk, talk, talk. Our Lord Jesus does bring peace, but He does so as a conquering king. He brings peace through superior firepower. That firepower is not carnal, but it is potent, and the principalities and powers (those that are left) tremble at the might wielded by a faithful Christian church, uncontaminated by idols, worshiping God in the spirit of holiness.

And so we are preparing to say to one another, “Merry Christmas!” And we sing to one another about the inauspicious beginning of Christ’s conquest – “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.” But we also see, with the eye of faith, the end of the process – “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” And so in Christmas, we turn to the principalities and powers (those that are left), conduct our celebrations, and all God’s people say, “Take that.”

– Douglas Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry (pp. 116-117)

Book Review: God Rest Ye Merry

god-rest-ye-wilson-201x300To begin with, here’s wishing you a merry Christmas.

And if you’re wondering why I wished you a merry Christmas, or why Christmas is worth being merry about in the first place, then you’re in luck: there’s a book for that.

In God Rest Ye Merry, Douglas Wilson seeks to rekindle the Christian’s understanding of why Christmas really is “the foundation for everything.” He tears down false reasons for the season (and false objections to it); reflects upon the oddness and beauty of the Incarnation; explains why the first Christmas was “a political event of the first order”; shows us how to celebrate like true Puritans; and examines the theology behind gift-giving. All in less than
one hundred fifty pages.

He’s efficient, this Wilson is.

I’ve got gifts to wrap and halls to deck, so I’ll just cut to the chase: God Rest Ye Merry is a terrific book. I loved it. You should read it. Better yet, you and your family should read it. (The Advent meditations included at the back of the book are perfectly suited to family devotions.) Here are a few standout passages to whet your appetite.

From Lesson Two, The Politics of Christmas:

The message of Christmas is politically incendiary, when you think about it, and it is not for nothing that secularists are trying to get us to forget Jesus with their C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Common Era), and seasonal conifers instead of Christmas trees. Nice try, but we aren’t buying any…

The Anti-Christian Liberties Union (ACLU) knows that getting Christmas trees off public property is well worth fighting for. This is why we as Christians have to learn that saying “merry Christmas” is an act of insurrection. How do we define our lives? More than this, how do we define our lives as a people? Far from retreating into a minimalist celebration, or no celebration at all, we as Christians must take far greater advantage of the opportunity we have in all of this. Now the Lord Jesus is on His throne. And His government will continue to increase. But He works through instruments, and one of His central instruments for establishing His kingdom on earth is the faith of His people. Why is it that Christians shopping at WalMart are being reminded over the loudspeakers that “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” Why are they telling us this? It’s our religion. Why don’t we believe it? But if you believe it, then say merry Christmas to somebody. (pp. 59, 61)

From Lesson Three, Celebrating Like A Puritan:

Some may object to the fact that the suffix -mass is still in the name. But the objectionable doctrine of transubstantiation was not codified by the Roman church until the thirteenth century (A.D. 1215) at the Fourth Lateran Council. The word mass originally came from the fact that in the ancient church catechumens were dismissed from the service before the Lord’s Supper was observed. “Ite, missa est,” which roughly translated means  that “you may go now.” We see it still in our word dismissed. (p. 92-93)

From Daily Meditations for Advent, Day Twelve:

We forget that Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children is very much a part of the Christmas story – as much a part of it as the shepherds, and the angels, and the star, and the wise men. This is a story of the infants who were butchered by a tyrannical king, and the one infant who was spared in order to grow up and die for the sins of His people.

This story has death woven through it – the backdrop is death, and sin, and tyranny. We celebrate at this time, not because we live in a sentimentalist paradise where there has never been any evil, but only gently falling snow and the sound of sleigh bells in the distance. We celebrate the birth of the one who overthrew the principalities and powers. This is not a holiday that commemorates the essential sweetness and goodness of man. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the story of how it came about that death finally was killed, and how the Warrior who did this great thing was spared in His infancy.

This is why the continued celebration of Christmas is a standing threat to the secularists who want to remove every vestige of it from the public square. I dare say they do. They understand it better than we do. Merry Christmas really means tyranny is dead. (p. 126)