Trivia quiz

Who said this?

"Do this in remembrance of me:

Thou shalt make an altar of an evergreen tree. On its branches thou shalt place gold and other symbols of the things you love.

Beneath it, thou shalt offer sacrifices of clothing, cookware, and other items of household necessity. For children, thou shalt provide playthings for the coming year. Some of these sacrifices, once properly prepared for presentation, shall be shared with the poor and fatherless in thy community. The rest thou shalt leave on the altar until the appointed time.

On the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, thou shalt gather thy family, thy parents and thy offspring, thy brothers and sisters and their offspring, and all those who are related by blood to thee, in all the generations that may be living, around the altar. Together, you should carefully remove the presentation materials, carefully preserving these for the next year.

Thou shalt show gratitude to those who have prepared the offering and accept the gift in my name, because these are the sacrifices that are acceptable to me."


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Blogger Aj Schwanz said...

Ouch. Well put.

12/12/2005 2:44 PM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

I'm stumped. If I had to guess I'd say Hallmark or Sears or maybe those guys that make The Clapper.

12/12/2005 4:27 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

ha! I've been wondering what our (now historic?) Quaker tradition had to say with respect the Christmas madness. As I understand it, Quakers historically didn't celebrate Christmas because the Light of Christ is with us every day and to suggest one day is more holy than the others is deny Christ the other 264 days of the year.

And even if a modern Quaker were to celebrate Christmas, I wonder how he or she might be called to do it. Christmas trees, lights, glass ornaments, wrapping paper, gifts, gifts, and more gifts, mass quanitites of food and drink, santa, tv specials, and on and on...

Nothing in the Bible or in my own experiences of G-d suggest any of that. So why do we/I do it? Are we not distracting ourselves from G-d in all of these cultural norms?

12/13/2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Oops. I meant to say "the other 364 days of the year..."

12/13/2005 10:46 AM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Not quite so fast. . . the Quaker renunciation of Christmas was driven in large part because of the riotious, immoderate customs that accompanied it in 17th century England. As Stephen Nissenbaum wrote in The Battle for Christmas, Christmas "involved behavior that most of us would find offensive and even shocking today -- rowdy public displays of excessive eating and drinking, the mockery of established authority, aggressive begging (often involving the threat of doing harm) and even the invasion of wealthy homes." It was, the Puritans and Friends maintained, blasphemous to associate a time of such public and flagrent sinning with the birth of the Christ.

We see only fragments of this old reality now, such as "Bring us some figgy pudding & we won't leave until we get some. . . ." This demand stated the poor's claim on charity from the rich during this season, which had the effect of reinforcing the normal social order the other 50 weeks a year.

But the crassness of a commercialized season of meaningless consumption is but another manifestation of the ancient customs.

Little by little, pious, anti-pagan Christians squeezed the begging to Halloween and the revelry to New Years, but much of the traditional celebrations were in full force during the 17th century, and it was this that the Quakers Puritans objected to.

That said, it is not difficult to find statements by Friends emphasizing that the testimony against keeping Christmas was based in the idea that the Bible does not command or otherwise sanction it (as contrasted with the last supper, as you observe), and that setting apart some days as holier than others was simply untrue, but these were objections only to the religious aspects of Christmas that had, at the time, a comparitively weak hold on the season. There was less need to explain why they were against the public immorality of the season.

This is all related to the Church's ~2000 year battle to reframe the pagan seasonal observances into a Christian world view. Jesus is NOT, in fact, the "reason for the season." The season came first, and while it has proven resiliant enough to incorporate the Jesus story as an integral part of it (just as Clement Moore did with St Nicholas in the 19th century, a topic that Nissenbaum also sheds a lot of light on) it is not enough so as to extinguish the deeper, darker roots in the universal story of light and darkness, death and rebirth.

12/13/2005 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Paul, tonight it feels so dark and quiet despite the full moon and I couldn't figure it and then I realize, oh yes, rolling towards Solstice -- the darkening of the light.

We celebrate chanukah where we get to celebrate the light that endures despite the darkness.

I do feel that holidays like Christmas as well as birthdays and other days that celebrate gift-giving are profoundly meaningful. And oh yes, the over-the time consumption and commercialization are a drag on the spirit -- and yet, and learning how to give and accept gifts -- seems something very important to me. What gifts are freely given? What does it mean to have something and give it completely to someone else? And what is it about the pleasure of seeing someone receive a gift from you and they realize in that gift that you have truly seen them 0r the pleasure of accepting a gift realizing it is a symbol of being fully seen.

12/14/2005 1:25 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

So by now you've probably seen Martin's link to the history of the festivals of Christmas - from a truly negative perspective.

I have said for a few years now that there is about as much truth in the story of Jesus being born in a stable as there is in the story of Santa Claus:
They're both loosely based on historical figures;
They've both been manipulated for political, economic, and social reasons;
They both have some enduring Truth that speaks deeply to people.

I think that the reason nobody really knows about the birth of Jesus is that when he was born, he was just another baby in another peasant family - who cared? Nobody, except his immediate family. What is interesting to me is why they made up a story of a child so poor he was born in a stable? Maybe since they couldn't pretend he had a glorious birth by earthly measures they had to make up a story at the other extreme.

I really liked Paul's pointing out that this Season predates Jesus. Maybe we will give in to celebrate Solstice at this time of year and the birth of Jesus on each of our birthdays. I don't know.

Maybe the early Quakers didn't celebrate holidays but they didn't dance or sing either, and I think both of those can be to the glory of God, even if they're not always used that way. Is it just wasteful to have more lights or even candles just for decoration? Or is there a human need for beauty and symbols and light-heartedness?

Evy's point about giving gifts is apt for me today, as I tried to get each of my sons to think about preparing a gift for his brother - and neither could think of anything he wanted to make or buy that his brother would like.

12/20/2005 2:08 AM  
Blogger Nancy A said...

I like it! Where's Monty Python when you need them??

1/05/2006 12:19 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I can hardly imagine the funny hats that would go with a Monty Python version of this piece... My husband got his first video recording of Monty Python under our evergreen altar - to go with the original vinyl albums...

1/05/2006 9:15 PM  

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