What Christmas Means to C. S. Lewis

CS Lewis on ChristmasIn God in the Dock, a collection of Essays by C. S. Lewis, I stumbled upon an essay called “What Christmas Means to Me” (pp. 304-305).

Below are the opening and closing paragraphs of this essay:

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians, but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

Then, in classic C. S. Lewis style, he writes several paragraphs about the nuisance of shopping and buying presents before concluding with this:

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

To the rest of what C.S. Lewis thinks of Christmas, you will have to get this book: God in the Dock.


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Comments

  1. says

    Few people write with the clarity of C.S. Lewis. His “trilemma” in “Mere Christianity” was the pivotal point in my turn from agnosticism to faith in Christ:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” – C.S. Lewis, from “Mere Christianity”

      • says

        As long as a person remains unwilling, no words – no matter how logical or eloquent – will be convincing.

        On the other hand, if a person – for whatever reason – becomes willing to follow the truth wherever it leads him, he cannot help but eventually find Christ. Words like Lewis’ are merely signposts along the way.

  2. Will Rochow says

    I enjoyed that. Thank you. I think he was “right on” with this.

    I wasn’t familiar with “God in the Dock” but have since added it to my Amazon “wish list.”

    Blessings :)

  3. says

    I share his sentiments exactly! The comment about Christmas shopping makes perfect sense after going to Walmart yesterday to buy toys for the grandchildren. As my friend says about Christmas “It’s all about the economy, stupid!”

    So far this year, it’s been about gaining weight for us. Perhaps too much of the merry-making.

    C.S.’ writing is multi-layered. As with uncut diamonds scattered amongst the pebbles at Crater of Diamonds, his works are replete with gems that may not catch the eye at first glance. I’ve already gathered a pocketful reading “Joy” and “Faces”, and I’m only halfway through “Faces”. It may indeed be his best piece!

  4. says

    I find it interesting that your email had two parts, one discussing evangelism and one with the following quote from Lewis, “But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business.” Seems a bit at odds with the idea of evangelism.

    • says

      Harold,

      In the essay, Lewis is using a play on words with “business.” He is saying that “business” (i.e., economy) is now the point of Christmas, and he doesn’t think it should be.

      Regarding evangelism, well, those were my own thoughts, not his, and so the two cannot really be compared.

  5. LCK says

    I feel vindicated that C.S. Lewis and I share the same view of Christmas. Now I can continue to rant against the commercialization of Christmas knowing that he is on my side. Thanks for posting this!

    • Susan P. says

      Wow. So glad to have substantiation from someone like Lewis (not to my surprise). No Christmas tree or decorations at my house. I can barely keep up with normal housework, much less extra work. Next week if I have time and don’t need to spend much money, I may adorn my front porch in an effort to say “Merry Christmas”. But if I don’t get there, I don’t. It’s far too easy to try to make the perceived “Christian statement” i.e. decorating for Christmas, then to actually do something tangible to share with others that Emmanuel came for each one of us.

  6. alison says

    C.S. Lewis was pivotal to my arrival at Christianity and I cherish his common sense as well a his deep spirituality. I love Christmas as a celebration of the utter miracle of Emanuel, and as an opportunity to express my joy by giving gifts that have meaning to people I love. Sometimes they are purchased, sometimes they are homemade, and often they take the form of monetary contributions to charitable organizations. But we stopped being pressured to participate in the unseemly frenzy years ago. Can’t serve two Gods.

  7. says

    Susan, Susan P, and Alison,

    I hear you! At our house, we decorate and bake, and try to enjoy every second of it, but it is getting harder and harder and busier and busier. It seems that every year we add another fun tradition. They are fun, but each one make the season more difficult.

    So we need to trim the traditions as well as the tree!

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