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“Christmas Day Will Always be, Just as long as We have We” Everything I Know Really About Christmas comes from Peanuts and the Grinch

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am a Priest, and I am actually a pretty learned theologian as well as a historian. I am probably a better historian than theologian, in fact on of my Deans at the Joint Forces Staff College said that I was “a historian masquerading as a chaplain, not that there is anything wrong with that.” But the fact is that as learned as I am of the theology of the Incarnation and how important that is to real Christian theology. The Incarnation not about creating some kind of Christian theocracy in order to usher in the Kingdom of God, instead it is about a God that chooses to become fully human, to be born of a woman, and to endure the death of a criminal, despised and rejected by the types of people that theocracy minded “Christian leaders” emulate in thought, word, and deed.

With that being said I will not bore you with an essay citing historical references, Scripture, or quotations of theologians, pastors, and historians much more learned, and for that matter probably better Christians than me. So, please, if you feel the need to criticize my theology, feel free, but please, have the decency to arrange to do that over a beer or your favorite tasty beverage later, don’t ruin your Christmas or mine to do that, there are plenty of other days to do just that take a deep breath whether you are a Christian Fundamentalist, a Traditionalist Catholic, a militant Atheist, or whatever.

But here’s the deal. The truth is when all is said and done I learned ever that I need to know about Christmas from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown by Charles Schulz, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

To me it is fascinating because Schulz, who brought us Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts Gang for half a century was a Christian who battled depression and faith, yet his classic animated cartoon of Christmas which was released in 1965 has probably reached more people with the Christmas message than any great preacher of the past century or more.

The decision to include the speech by Linus was controversial, because of the expressly religious implications, by Schulz insisted that it be reatained.

I saw it for the first time when it was released in 1965, and now 53 years later it retains its freshness and innocence.

 Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!

Linus: Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please?

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Likewise, I think that Dr. Seuss, who was Jewish, may very well have done the same in his story about the Grinch.

I think of the last part of the Grinch and think about these words:

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.

I know, kind of simplistic and ecumenical. But I have learned so much about Christmas and the Incarnation from others, of course many are Christians, but I have also learned from Jews, Muslims, and others. So for all of my friends and readers I simply repeat the words of Dr Seuss. Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer… Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we…

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Historic “Christian” War on Christmas

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“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small…” Dr Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Yes my friends I hate to admit it there is a war on Christmas. However unlike those that want to blame it on all of those Godless types I have to say that the real war on Christmas has been waged by Christians for centuries.

Now I do have to be fair. There are some people in the secularist camp who file lawsuits against municipalities that have Christmas displays on public property and even some who will push those lawsuits to exhibits on private property.  However, despite the media attention these are nothing in comparison to what Christian Grinches have done over the years.

So despite the efforts of some I do not fear for Christmas because the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation and Nativity has survived far worse even from those within the faith.

Now let me be fair here. Some of the things that the Christian Grinches have protested are frivolous and at their heart not very spiritual. But that tends not to be the case today. As Christians we seem perfectly at home in the crass materialism and consumerism of our modern Christmas celebrations even within the walls of our churches. It seems that as long as we are willing to put a nativity scene made by Third World slave laborers in the middle of an otherwise completely capitalistic consumer orgy we don’t care. But God forbid an Atheist object or a member of a minority religion demand equal time and space for their display in the otherwise crassly materialistic celebration. But I digress….

Let us go back and look at some history. Not that fake David Barton and Glenn Beck history but real history. You know, stuff that actually happened and that we have documentary evidence to support, not stuff that we pull out of thin air.

puritans

Back in the the 1600s a religious group influential in our nation’s early development hated the celebration of Christmas. I am not kidding. These were the Puritans, who by their name we must assume were pretty pure.

Since the Puritans already believed that they were the “elect” based on the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination they knew they were right. For those that don’t know what this doctrine means let me explain. The idea was that the Puritans and other strict Calvinists believed that they were the elect. In other words they believed that they were pre-ordained by God before the foundation of the world to go to heaven. Now that isn’t uncommon in religion but they also believed based on the same doctrine that all other people were destined to go to Hell because God decided they would before the creation of the world.

But there was another interesting part of this doctrine that wasn’t about heaven. They also believed that they had the “Biblical Mandate” to rule for God on earth. Their successors in the modern Christian Dominion or 7 Mountains Theology movement believe the same thing. They believed that sine it was God’s will that they rule that whatever they they said that others needed to obey, after all God put them in charge.

The Puritans came out of the Protestant Reformation in England. Unlike today the English took religion pretty seriously.  Now despite the cultured accent that we hear on the BBC or CNN World the English of that day were actually more like unruly football fans only worse. When it came to matters of religious tolerance and loving their neighbors they were pretty un-Christian.

English Protestants of the non-monarchical Reformation type like the Puritans did their best to rid the Church of England of anything that appeared to even look Catholic, especially Christmas. Of course this cleansing of the church often included real people including the few remaining stick in the mud Roman Catholics and Anglicans who still liked Catholic stuff.

But to be fair to the Puritans back then the English of all Christian denominations tended to be a bit intolerant. They would lop off the heads of, burn at the stake or crush with heavy stones anyone that deviated from their beliefs first and ask questions later. It was kind of like the fans of the Premier League only not as well behaved.

Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper

Oliver Cromwell

Early in their history the Puritans were a persecuted group. Militant, intolerant, exclusive  who could not find reasons not to like them? But when the Puritans took power when Oliver Cromwell overthrew the monarchy they took their revenge and they enjoyed it. They didn’t just decide to lop, crush and burn their opponents of all denominations, but they also decided to outlaw the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas law 1658

Of course they did so for noble reasons such as ridding the country of anything that smelled Catholic or did not fit within their rather harsh and purist views of the faith. Thus when they took power they did their best to ensure that everyone was as miserable as them. This included banning the celebration of Christmas. They were kind of like the Taliban in a sense, except they were not Moslems.  But that being said they ruled in a similar manner and made most other people miserable.

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In 1652 it was declared that no Observation shall be had of the Five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas-Day; nor any Solemnity used or exercised in Churches upon that Day in respect thereof’.

In 1647 the Puritan dominated Parliament backed up by the brute force of the Army and Police led by Oliver Cromwell simply abolished the Christmas feast and all that went with it, including the Roast Beast. Gone were such nasty pagan ideas such as Christmas Trees, feasting, caroling, and decorations. And let’s not forget the favorite target of Grinch’s everywhere, Nativity scenes. Of course the Puritans had a different reason than modern secular Grinches for banning them. Nativity scenes were banned because they were “idols.” Not content with banning the outward festivities the Puritans even frowned on the use of the word Christmas because they believed that it was akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain.

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Wassailing 

Likewise the Puritans were not content with inflicting their beliefs on church going people, they inflicted them on the majority of the people who simply wanted some relief for the drudgery of daily life in 17th Century England. The Puritans even banned the poor from the tradition of Wassailing. Wassailing was a custom in which the rather pungent poor would go from house to house, begging for treats in exchange for drinking a toast to the family.  The drink called wassail, was a hot spiced wine.  Now this was not a vintage Napa Valley or French wine but a pungent English wine, thus the need for spices and heat. Wassailing sometimes ended up in an out of control scene of drunken revelry, much like current English Football match celebrations, which is why the Puritans objected so strenuously. They didn’t like football either. No kidding, back then it was known as Mob Football and didn’t have very many rules. It was particularly popular at Christmas which meant that it must be of the Devil.

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Mob Football

Be it known that the Puritans did had no sense of fun as we know it. They viewed any religious practice that might include something fun harmful and as such religious practices such as these needed to be removed from public life altogether.

Well this situation lasted until 1660 a year after the Lord Protector and head of the Army and Police Oliver Cromwell kicked the bucket. The anti-Christmas laws were quickly overturned and the populace went back to simply lopping, burning and crushing and everyone, save those being lopped, crushed or burned was happy because Christmas was back.  People were so happy to bring Christmas back that the new rulers in England exhumed Cromwell’s body from Westminster Abbey and executed him posthumously. Since they had a flair for decorating they lopped off Cromwell’s head and displayed it outside Westminster Hall for about four years.

A popular verse of the time said:

Now thanks to God for Charles’ return,
Whose absence made old Christmas mourn;
For then we scarcely did it know,
Whether it Christmas were or no.

PURITAN-BAN-ON-CHRISTMAS-WAS-TO-PREVENT-DEMONIZATIONS-OF-CITIZENS-IN-COMMUNITY

Not to be outdone the Puritan colonists in the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted similar laws to their brethren in England. In 1659 through the newly appointed Governor Sir Edmund Andros. The laws remained on the books until 1681. During the time that the laws were in force everyone had a grand time. Like others in places like Cromwell’s England, Stalin’s Soviet Union, the Ayatollah’s Iran and the Taliban’s Afghanistan the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned the celebration of Christmas and other such holidays at the same time it banned gambling and other lawless behavior.

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Grumpy Puritan and Revelers 

Grouping all such behaviors together the court placed a fine of five shillings on anyone caught feasting or celebrating the holiday in a manner that might be construed as fun. Things like taking time off from work, feasting, partying, wassailing, playing Mob Football or anything else. The law read like this:

“For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county.”

That sounds lovely doesn’t it? At least they didn’t go lopping, burning or crushing with heavy stones unless you were proven to be a Christmas celebrating witch. Unlike England where the lifting of the ban was celebrated with the aplomb given to a World Cup championship the Colonists up in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and their descendants frowned upon the celebration of Christmas until the 1820s. That was  when enough Irish showed up in Boston to turn the place around and make it the fun town that it is now.  Coincidently the last “State Church” in the United States was the Congregational Church in Massachusetts. It wasn’t disestablished until 1833.

So the next time you hear about those that want to impose their beliefs to quash Christmas regardless of their religious or non-religious reasons please realize that this isn’t a new thing at all. Christians have been doing it for centuries.

Let us also remember that some of the un-fun Fundamentalists screaming about the “war on Christmas” actually want to re-establish the Puritan view of faith which would in effect eliminate any celebration of Christmas if they could only convince the corporations that profit off of Christmas but otherwise support their political causes to go along with it.

But for now we only have to suffer those fun and sentimentality deprived army of Grinch’s that without the religious flair of the Puritans attempt to crush the spirit of Christmas. Thankfully, more people like all the tinsel and bells as well as the presents and time off regardless of their religion or lack thereof and so the Christmas celebration as we know it will survive.

Maybe in doing so a few people will discover the humble, less than pretentious babe laying in the manger. One can always hope.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve Gets into the Christmas Spirit in Spite of Himself

charlie-brown-asks

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Charlie Brown

Well, it it still Advent but despite all my heartfelt leanings of liturgical calendar correctness I have caught the Christmas spirit early this year. I don’t know why, especially because I can be such a Grinch this time of year.

It began last week when I had to make 8 dozen cookies for our annual “cookie exchange” at the hospital where I serve. We had the exchange on Friday and it was combined with our Christmas Tree (Holiday Tree for those more politically correct than this moderate liberal) lighting.

Let’s face it without Martin Luther we wouldn’t do the Christmas tree thing anyway, the Calvinists that first settled this country were such party-poopers that that they thought the whole concept of celebrating Christmas was sinful. (See my article Christian Grinch’s: How the Puritans nearly stole Christmas  http://wp.me/prGqV-1tg  ) So I guess if we want to play the whole politically correct thing the Calvinists forefathers and mothers of our current Evangelical Christian defenders of “Christmas” actually had more in common with the current critics of the holiday than its defenders? But I digress…

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Martin Luther with his family at Christmas

So in the spirit of Martin Luther, that beer drinking foul mouthed German instigator of the Protestant Reformation, I have gotten into the Christmas spirit. For the first time since I was in Iraq I feel an eager anticipation of the coming of Christmas.

Puritan Christmas Ban

The Puritan’s Idea of a Very Calvin Christmas

Like I said it began last week. First there was my cookie baking adventure The Easy Baking Bachelor of Christmastide which was a success. In fact I plan on repeating it to some extent tonight, gifts for my minions at work and friends at the bar tomorrow. The cookie exchange took place Friday. I brought in the cookies and when I got to work one of the fellow members of the board of directors asked me if I was going to change into my dress blues as I was wearing my khakis. It was at that point that I thought to myself “Oh shit.” I had forgotten that those of us on the board of directors who are on active duty actually dress up when we do this. You see my dress blue uniform was hanging in my apartment, 25 miles away. Since I had to attend one of those good occasions where we were promoting a couple of dozen young sailors I could not leave immediately to change into the uniform.

I was happy to see the Sailors get promoted but I was not happy about having to make the trip home and back. Yes I could have weaseled my way out of the dress blue uniform but as much of a weasel as I can be I hate to look obvious. So when the ceremony ended at 0900 I dashed to my office, grabbed my cover, which is what we in the Navy call a hat and ran out to my car. I made it home in good time and then things started going to hell.

Molly, my little dog Molly decided that she needed to go out and since I was home early she assumed that I had all day to indulge her. It was a power fight, the little Papillon-Dachshund mix decided that she would fart around. Eventually I got her inside and went to get in my uniform, which to my surprise still had the large medals which I had on it for a change of command ceremony I had been participated in, and which I had to switch out for mere ribbons. I hurriedly changed the ribbons, gave Molly her “cookie” (not one of the chocolate chuck cookies but a dog treat) changed into my uniform and dashed to the car.

At that point something happened in me. It was as if I was having a Grinch moment, but in a good way: As the story goes: “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”

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It was a damn close run adventure getting back to the base on time. It seemed that if there was a red light that I caught it and to make matters worse, if there was a minnie-van driven by a doddering retiree or soccer mom who decided to do 5 miles an hour under the speed limit in the left hand lane I got behind them. In between praying and cussing and dodging in and out of impossible traffic situations I realized that I really wanted to make it on time. It was as if the Force was with me as I wove in and out of the insidiously poor drivers who could not drive nails and should not be behind the controls of modern automobiles.

Now this was strange because such ceremonial events are usually, no matter what the occasion are painful for me to attend, being that I am mildly introverted and anti-social. It was like when the Grinch’s grew and he had to dash to Whoville to save Christmas. It was almost a conversion experience, a Christmas miracle if you will. I was possessed with the need to make it on time despite the obstacles.

Despite construction zones, slow drivers hogging the fast lane, and traffic lights I was able to get to the hospital parking lot at 1028 with the ceremony scheduled to begin at 1030. I had no time to waste. Our employee parking lots are not convenient to getting into the building fast. We reserve that right for patients and visitors. This is probably a good business and PR practice but not helpful at this particular moment. So I found an empty spot in the outfield got out of my car and started to run. It was like the good old days before O.J. Simpson allegedly killed his wife Nicole, when he ran through airports in a suit for Hertz Rent-A-Car in TV commercials. I was flying. This is the great thing about being in shape and not straining to get into the uniform. I ran up the hill by our ER and down the hill, jumped curbs, ditches, and barriers as I wove between pedestrians and cars in the parking lot.  Marines, Sailors and civilians looked at crazy Navy officer dashing through the lot with amazement. Surely they though it must be an emergency, and in a sense it was. I was running out of time and I had to give the invocation.

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I made it on time and then the ceremony was delayed for 15 minutes. I breathed a sigh of relief and found that my heart had indeed grown three sizes that day because I was not cussing and swearing and acting like a complete idiot. It was a Christmas miracle. The ceremony went well and the two hours of conversations and chit-chatting that followed was enjoyable despite the uncomfortableness of my patent leather military issue shoes. I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that all was well in my world. When the day was done I went home and hung out with Molly before doing usual grilled chicken salad dinner at the neighborhood bar.

One would think that the story would end there but then one would be wrong. I carried the duty pager over the weekend and at about 0100 Saturday morning it went off. It was a call from the Emergency Room. A man was in cardiac arrest and I was needed. I rolled out of bed, waking up Molly who looked offended and I put on my uniform to head to the hospital. When I got there the patient had died, but I spent time and prayed with his wife, then other members of the family who arrived over the next hour. When all was done I drove back home where I woke up Molly, who by the way does not think kindly to being woken up at 0415.

The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful. I went to our hospital Christmas party  Saturday night which was nice and on Sunday celebrated a Eucharist at home after sleeping late for the Second Sunday of Advent. I was tired but I felt great.

So this morning, despite not sleeping well due to holding the duty pager I got up and prepared for work. I had made one mistake however. I assumed that the North Carolina DOT had made appropriate traffic arrangements for traffic control since the bridge that connects us with the mainland is down to one lane due to the resurfacing of the road on it. I anticipated a 10-15 minute delay at the most, however the contractor did not use flagmen but used a timed traffic signal. The result was a traffic nightmare. It took an hour and a half to cover two miles. However instead of ranting and raving as might be my custom I decided instead of listening to news, political commentary, ESPN or even the 70’s channel to tune in to the Sirius radio station that played Christmas songs. It was great and I didn’t stress out. It took nearly 2 and a half hours to get to work today, normally it is about 35-45 minutes. But in that time I realized that I didn’t need to be a Christmas Grinch after all and that my dash to hospital on Friday was not a mistake.

So tonight, I made more cookies to distribute to my minions and friends tomorrow and watched my favorite television Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch that Stole Christmas. 

I am enjoying the lead up to Christmas for the first time in a long time and it feels good. I do hope that in spite of the Fiscal Cliff and all the problems of the world that maybe more people will have a Grinch conversion moment this year and perhaps like Charlie Brown discover the meaning of Christmas, not only now but all year round…

Christmas time is here

We’ll be drawing near

Oh, that we could always see

Such spirit through the year

Oh, that we could always see

Such spirit through the year…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Laughing All the Way: Padre Steve’s Favorite Christmas Films and TV Shows

christmas-vacation

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.”

This is the time of year that a lot of Christmas movies are shown on almost every television outlet known to humanity.  Of course there are many that are absolutely timeless such as Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and its derivatives and It’s a Wonderful Life.

There are also ones of various religious themes, usually involving the birth of Jesus, like no duh, it’s Christmas. Unfortunately most of these films as classic as they are bore me to tears.  Yes they have nice messages and tug at the heartstrings but without wanting to sound too much like Scrooge I get bored by them, frightfully bored.

I guess part of this is a generational thing.  The ones set in the 1930s and 1940s are from a different era, an era that I know from history books and family members but not something that is a part of my life.  It’s like the film The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s is about the Roman Catholic Church of a half century ago, not the one that I know or that exists now.  They are fictional and while touching are indelibly tied to their time.  The religious themed films tended often to be major productions of the Hollywood Gospel genre, not very faithful to Scripture or the teachings of the church, not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it is certain to me that Cecil B. De Mille did not write the 5th Gospel, or the 6th Book of Moses (You have to know your Luther Bible for that one) thus I have a hard time with films that use the nativity or for that matter the passion of Christ for a quick buck.

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However, every year, there are several Christmas movies and television shows that I cannot live without seeing.  Of the television shows my all time favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  As a kid I had a deep affinity for both Charlie Brown and Linus. The frustration of Charlie Brown with the commercialization of Christmas was something that resonated in me at a young age and still does today. If you want to see this just look at my articles on Black Friday.  Likewise Linus’ reading of the Luke’s account of the Angel’s message to the shepherds always brings tears to my eyes.  There is something about the sensitivity of Linus to the actual Gospel message that resonates in my heart.

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As for the Grinch, and I mean the television Grinch where Boris Karloff voiced the part of the Grinch not the Jim Carey movie version, it has always been a favorite of mine.  I find the plot of the Grinch to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville to be a masterful account of how the message of Christmas can touch even the smallest and coldest of hearts.  Of course I absolutely loved the Grinch’s dog “Max” a dog whose loyalty to the Grinch reminds me of my dog Molly.

As far as movies are concerned I watch Scrooged staring Bill Murray and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation staring Chevy Chase with almost a religious reverence every year.

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I relate to the main characters in both movies.  That’s not necessarily a compliment to me. Bill Murray’s Character in Scrooged pricks my cynical nature and there are times that I almost need to cover my eyes when in Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold kicks the decorative reindeer and sleigh across the lawn when he can’t get his house lights on.  His rants when his Christmas Tree goes up in flames and when his family tries to leave the house are so close to the way that I can act under the stress of the holidays that is scary.  Since Judy says this is the case I know that I am not imagining this.

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Three other films that get me are Home Alone and A Christmas Story and though it is not really a Christmas story Trading Places staring Dan Aykroyd whose Christmas season meltdown is at the center of a film about the greed of certain parts of the American financial sector.

These are what I grew up with and which were the films about Christmas as it takes place in the United States that I became an adult in that typify my era, not that of my grandparents.  I think that is why they are my favorites and not the classics of a bygone time.

festivus-card

Of course there is the Festivus episode of Seinfeld that is almost scary because of how close to home it hits. There are times that I think we only lacked the “feats of strength” and the Festivus Pole to complete the picture.  Sticking to Seinfeld I always feel a twinge of sympathy for George when makes up a fake charity called “The Human Fund: Money for People” to give to his co-workers at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. There are times that I am tempted, but thankfully never will do something similar.

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Finally I like the X-Files Christmas episode How the Ghosts Stole Christmas where Ed Asner and Lilly Tomlin played ghosts in a haunted house that Agents Scully and Mulder get trapped in while investigating a case. When I go shopping anywhere this time of year I am quite fond of Agent Scully’s comment to Mulder: “Sorry. Checkout lines were worse than rush-hour on the 95. If I heard “Silent Night” one more time, I was gonna start taking hostages.” 

Okay, so these are not the classics of a bygone era, but they are my classics and I will enjoy Charlie Brown, Linus, the Grinch, Clark Griswold, Frank Cross, the Costanzas Agents Mudler and Scully and the rest of my warped favorites as I continue to rediscover the joy and hilarity of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States. After all, to quote Clark Griswold “We’re all in this together.”

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Christmas Movies and Shows

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.”

This is the time of year that a lot of Christmas movies are shown on almost every television outlet known to humanity.  Of course there are many that are absolutely timeless such as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There are also ones of various religious themes, usually involving the birth of Jesus, like no duh, it’s Christmas. Unfortunately most of these films as classic as they are bore me to tears.  Yes they have nice messages and tug at the heartstrings but without wanting to sound too much like Scrooge I get bored by them.  I guess part of this is a generational thing.  The ones set in the 1930s and 1940s are from a different era, an era that I know from history books and family members but not something that is a part of my life.  It’s like the film “The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s” is about the Roman Catholic Church of a half century ago, not the one that I know.  They are fictional and while touching are indelibly tied to their time.  The religious themed films tended often to be major productions and Hollywood Gospel.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I’m sorry Cecil B. De Mille did not write the 5th Gospel, or the 6th Book of Moses (You have to know your Luther Bible for that one.)

Frank Cross (Bill Murray) with the Ghost of Christmas Past

Instead every year there are several Christmas movies and television shows that I cannot live without seeing.  Of the television shows my all time favorite is “A Charlie Brown Christmas” followed by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” As a kid I had a deep affinity for both Charlie Brown and Linus. The frustration of Charlie Brown with the commercialization of Christmas was something that resonated in me at a young age.  Likewise Linus’ reading of the Luke’s account of the Angel’s message to the shepherds always brings tears to my eyes.  As for the Grinch, and I mean the television Grinch where Boris Karloff voiced the part of the Grinch not the Jim Carey movie version it has always been a favorite of mine.  I find the plot of the Grinch to steal Christmas from the “Whos” of “Whoville” to be a masterful account of how the message of Christmas can touch even the smallest and coldest of hearts.  Of course I absolutely loved the Grinch’s dog “Max.”

As far as movies I have watched “Scrooged” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” almost religiously and am doing so tonight.  I relate to both of the main characters in both movies.  That’s not necessarily a compliment to me, but when I watch both there are times that I almost need to cover my eyes because of the resemblance, especially the scene in Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase starts kicking his decorative reindeer and sleigh across the lawn when he can’t get his house lights on and his rants about when his Christmas Tree goes up in flames and when his family tries to leave are scary close to the way that I can act under the stress of the holidays.  The Abbess says that this indeed is me and I agree.  Three other films that get me are “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” and though not really a Christmas story “Trading Places.” These are what I grew up with and which were the films about Christmas as it takes place in the United States that I became an adult in that typify my era, not that of my grandparents.  I think that is why they are my favorites and not the classics of a bygone time.  Of course there is the “Festivus” episode of “Seinfeld” that is almost scary in how things were in my house with my folks, I think at times we only lacked the “feats of strength” and the Festivus Pole to complete the picture.  Likewise when George makes up a fake charity called “The Human Fund: Money for People” to give to the folks at Kruger Industrial Smoothing it cracks me up because I know that there are people who give gifts in other people’s names to charity.

Finally I like the “X-Files” Christmas episode where Ed Asner and Lilly Tomlin played ghosts in a haunted house that Agents Scully and Mulder get trapped in while investigating a case.

Okay, so these are not the classics of a bygone era, but they are my classics and I will enjoy Charlie Brown, Linus, the Grinch, Clark Griswold, Frank Cross, the Costanzas and the rest of my warped favorites as I rediscover Christmas.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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