C.S. Lewis has a different take on Christmas. Here’s what he had to say
The beloved author disliked the frenzy and spending of the holiday, but called the birth of Jesus Christ ‘the central event in the history of Earth’ and ‘the Grand Miracle’
Editor’s note: This story originally published Dec. 25, 2019.
The Christian apologist C.S. Lewis had a touch of Ebenezer Scrooge in him when it came to Christmas.
“Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” — “The Last Battle”
In an essay first published in 1957, he called the religious festival “important and obligatory,” but groused about the gift-giving and card-sending, which he dismissed as a “commercial racket.”
“... The idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers,” Lewis wrote in “What Christmas Means to Me.”
With characteristic humor, Lewis went on to say that by the time Dec. 25 arrives, families are in no mood for making merry, but instead “look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”
To separate his feelings about the spiritual side and the commercial side of the season, in 1954, Lewis wrote an essay called “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus,” in which he created a fictional land called Niatirb (Britain spelled backwards) that celebrates two festivals. Exmas is a festival of excesses, with participants frantically exchanging cards and gifts, often reluctantly. The other, Crissmas is a much simpler, quieter celebration centered on the birth of a child.
“I send no cards and give no presents except to children.” — C.S. Lewis in personal correspondence
He disputed the belief that the two festivals are the same simply because they are celebrated on the same day. “The pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas,” he wrote.
While the beloved author of “Mere Christianity” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” disliked the frenzy and spending of the holiday season, he called the birth of Jesus Christ “the central event in the history of Earth’’ and deemed the Incarnation “the Grand Miracle.”
He even wrote poems about Christmas, “The Nativity” and “The Turn of the Tide.”
Here are 18 things C.S. Lewis said or wrote about Christmas, ranging from reverent to inspiring to funny:
Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world. — The Last Battle
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. — Mere Christianity
Can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? — What Christmas Means to Me
The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of earth — the very thing the whole story has been about. — Interview
In the Christian story, God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature. — Miracles
I send no cards and give no presents except to children. — Personal correspondence
The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. — Mere Christianity
Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letterbox, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go. — What Christmas Means to Me
God could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape Him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane. — Personal correspondence
Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him, they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn. — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Just a hurried line ... to tell a story which puts the contrast between our Feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly ‘Xmas’ racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a crib outside it ... ‘They bring religion into everything. Look, they’re dragging it even into Christmas now’. — Personal correspondence
Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)/ I watch the manger where my Lord is laid; On that my baaing nature would win thence/ Some woolly innocence! — The Nativity
Is it still possible amid this ghastly racket of ‘Xmas’ to exchange greetings for the Feast of the Nativity? If so, mine, very warm, to both of you. — Personal correspondence
Then he cried out ‘Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!’ and he and the reindeer were gone from sight before anyone realized he had started. — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
So Death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless’d/Nothing greater could be heard/Than sighing wind in the thorn, the cry of One new-born/And cattle in stable as they stirred. — The Turn of the Tide
It was beautiful on two or three successive nights about the Holy Time, to see Venus and Jove (Jupiter) blazing at one another, once with the Moon right between them: Majesty and Love linked by Virginity — what could be more appropriate? — Personal correspondence
We find in our Prayer Book that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and goodwill, nothing remotely suggestive of the stable at Bethlehem. ... The note is not ‘Peace and goodwill’ but ‘Beware. He’s coming’. — Reflections on the Psalms
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. — Miracles