Summary: Spiritual and theological reflections on Christmas and its traditions.
Emily Hunter McGowin's Christmas is part of a series of books on the seasons of the liturgical calendar. Esau McAulley is the series editor and author of the book on Lent. The series also includes Tish Warren on Advent, Flemming Rutledge on Epiphany, and Emilio Alvarez on Pentecost.
Christmas is a nostalgic holiday and one that is relatively modern. It is not that the trope of Christmas being a pagan holiday is true (the book handles this well.) But our modern focus on gift giving and family and sentimentality is relatively recent. The Holy Post podcast recently had two episodes that talked about this. One was about St Nicholas, and the other was about David Taylor's Christianity Today article on American Christmas. Taylor's article is about how Christmas was not celebrated widely in the United States until the late 1800s. Congress met on Christmas when it fell on a weekday until the 1850s. Celebrating Christmas was against the law in Puritan New England from the mid-17th century because of its association with Catholicism and because of the history of how the celebration had been associated with debauchery in England.
But as Taylor points out, Queen Victoria and her German husband started using Christmas Trees to decorate and modeled a family-centered celebration of Christmas that was more common in Germany. A few years later, Charles Dickens published a Christmas Carol. And when it was published, few people would have had Christmas off of work. But the story's popularity did shame employers into giving Christmas day off.
The final aspect that made the modern celebration of Christmas what it is now is art. In 1823, A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement Moore was published, which we have all heard with the starting line, "Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house..." And then, a series of artists over the next 100 years or so, shaped the image of Santa Claus into what we know now. Most important are the images Haddon Sundblom did for Coca-Cola that used Coke's colors to associate Santa Claus with Coca-Cola.
I think it is important that we understand that background, some of which is discussed in McGowin's book, to know that Christmas's association with family, nostalgia, and consumerism is fairly new. McGowin's focus is on the spiritual and theological reasons for celebrating Christmas. First, she grounds the celebration in a tradition older than the 18th century and grapples with why we celebrate Jesus' birth when we do. Then, she explores the importance of the incarnation and what the incarnation means in regard to the redemption of creation. And there is a good discussion about why Jesus' poverty was not incidental to his incarnation.
The twelve days of Christmas (that time from Dec 25 to Epiphany on Jan 6) are intended to be a celebration. But it is a celebration that includes holding space for grief and lament by remembering St Stephen (a Christian martyr) and the Holy Innocents (the murder of all the boys under 2 by Herod). Later, Thomas Becket's martyrdom was also added to the twelve days of Christmas.
Christmas gifts were initially focused on giving to the poor, not family and friends. That shift is also worth noting because of its theological implications.
Except for Emilio Álvarez, all the rest of the authors of this series are Anglican or Episcopal priests. It makes sense that a series on the importance of the liturgical calendar is written by people who adhere to the liturgical calendar. I lean strongly toward Anglican theology and practice, but it is worth noting that there is a lot of reference to Anglican theology in the broad sense of that term, which is still a fairly small group among Evangelical-leaning Christians to whom the book is written.
This is a short book that would work well in a small group. It is short enough to read it in a couple of hours and discuss it in two or three sessions.
As in the others in the series, this title draws together history, tradition, and theology in a way that leads readers to worship. A book that will be a repeat Christmas read.
What a delightful series, The Fullness of Time. As a person who is new to the liturgical calendar, I find them especially helpful. They don't in any way assume a person is familiar with the background, the why, of these particular seasons. But after reading this book on Christmas, and the others, readers should be able to articulate the reasons. They're not light books, but treasures that help us feast on the feasting days, and journey with the faithful on the way to those.
Christmas, one book in a series detailing the church's liturgical calendar, is a must-read companion to the season. Emily Hunter McGowin does a beautiful job connecting current Christmas traditions with their historical origins while simultaneously exploring the deeper meaning of Christmas. I do not attend a liturgical church and was unfamiliar with many prayers and readings accompanying the different seasons on the church calendar. This book was enlightening and encouraging, and I highly recommend it to every reader.
A nice book that is part of a series that follows the liturgical calendar. This book is about Christmas. It's easy to let the season come and go without giving it too much thought. I really appreciate this series and taking time to focus on the current liturgical season.
(4/5 stars) This is the second book I've read in the Fullness of Time series, the first being Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal, and I enjoyed the reflections as we get closer to the Christmas season. As Esau McCaulley writes in his introduction of the book,
"These are not, strictly speaking, devotionals. They are theological and spiritual reflections that seek to provide spiritual formation by helping the reader live fully into the practices of the season. We want readers to understand how the church is forming them in the likeness of Christ through the church calendar."
Though I do not attend a church that strictly follows the liturgy (McCaulley was ordained in the Anglican Church in North America and his partners in this series are also part of liturgical churches), I did find that this book pulled me into the beauty of the church calendar and the richness of the traditions beyond December 25th to the whole liturgical season (Dec 24 - Jan 6). Emily Hunter McGowin is a skilled writer and her reflections invite the reader to relish the theological truths revealed to us during the Christmas season - a God who became man to dwell among us, to care for the poor and lonely, to mourn with us, and ultimately to usher in a re-creation.
I learned so much from this book about the liturgical aspects of Christmas and Christmastide. I feel so often in the Western Church, we focus on Jesus's birth, but don't recognize any of the other days that happen during Christmastide. Highly recommend for those who want to learn more about the history behind Christmas celebrations and the church calendar.
"The lowly and the hungry become God's covenant collaborators in the re-creation of the cosmos."
"Almost as soon as the Word of God appears in the flesh, the darkness rises up and tries to extinguish it."
"The full calendar helps us remember that the baby in the manger did not come simply to be cradled and adored. He came to live, die, and rise again for the redemption of the world. He came to inaugurate a new kingdom and to empower us to live within it."
I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
This is a small book that packs quite a punch. Although written from an Anglican viewpoint, it is an excellent resource. It deals with the historical background to many of the traditions and customs surrounding the Christmas period, dispelling myths as it goes. It is part of a series that deals with major Christian festivals. A well researched an written book that is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to fully engage with the Christian year and important festivals.
This is the second in the fullness of time books I have been able to read, the other being advent. I am really enjoying this series and I plan to buy them all when available.
This book focuses on the season of Christmastide the time between the 24th of Dec and the 6th of Jan. I enjoyed the history of this time of year I on the church and how it has been celebrated by the liturgical church over time. I do not attend a liturgical church myself but I have been finding myself more and more interested in this style of worship in the last few years and hope that I can add some of the ideas in this book to my own Christmas plans, as well as suggest ideas to my church for this time of year. The writing is beautiful and the author’s inclusion or personal stories really adds to the book.
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
This was so well written. I loved how robust the Christology was throughout the book. Short introduction to the liturgical Christmas season in the Anglican tradition, but very well done.
Christmas by author Emily Hunter McGowin is a lovely remind of what Christmas is. The author combines historical and religious data to enlighten readers on Christmas. Her writing is easy to read and understand. This book is a great asset for any Christian. I highly recommend it. It gets a 4 star rating from me. A copy was provided by NetGalley, but these are my honest words.
First of all, Thank You netgalley, for the ARC rewarded. Imust start saying that everything that has to do with christmases kind of thing has my attention right away. Also, when books comes with some historical subject, I'm totally in fot that. That being said, This narrative brings the best of both contents, presenting to Us a mixture of historical and relegious facts ans traditions the society use to celebrate Christmas all around the world. I loved it!
Here in this book You will find a kind of memorial about the true meaning of christmas and How can We incorporate in Our day life the spirit of not only an holiday season vibe, but the true lifestyle of live the Christmas.
I received a free copy of, Christmas, by Emily Hunter McGowin, from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book brings Christmas back to its root about the nativity, how Jesus is the reason foe the season. The author also reflects on her family Christmas traditions. All in all a good Christmas read for the family.