Xmas factor: lyrics are banal, says bishop - by David Callam
9th December 2009
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HO, ho, ho – and a Merry Christmas to the Bishop of Croydon.

In his book, Why Wish You a Merry Christmas, The Rt Rev Nick Baines has uttered an inconvenient truth that has plagued the Christian church for years.

Christmas, he says, is being reduced to the level of a fairy story by the lyrics of many of our favourite carols, which means children grow out of their religious faith in the same way that they stop believing in Father Christmas.

He’s right about the effect, but I think the cause is somewhat more complicated.

As I understand it, allowing for the vagaries of verbal history, Jesus is most likely to have been born sometime in February. But it suited an evangelising Christian church to hijack the pre-existing pagan festival of the winter solstice (December 25 prior to 1582) for its own celebrations.

Since the time of Queen Victoria the feasting and merry-making that is the essence of the original celebration has returned to the fore until it now means more to most people than any religious observance.

The Bishop complains he has been quoted out of context – don’t they all – but he is naive if he believes the tabloid press will forego the chance to pillory his views as yet another example of the Church of England shooting itself in the foot.

Children starve to death in the developing world; they die of diseases that are easily cured by medical science. The church has a role to prick politicians’ consciences and chide them to spend more tax-payers’ money alleviating such dreadful ills.

Instead it tears itself apart over arcane matters like women bishops and gay priests. Those on the Croydon omnibus don’t give a damn about such things, but they seem quite fond of Christmas carols.

Now some meddling priest is telling them it is shallow to do so; that they are retreating behind ritual and refusing to face reality. Oy, vey!

My Christmas starts at dusk on Christmas Eve with the Radio 4 broadcast of nine lessons and carols from King’s College, Cambridge – not that I’m a believer, but I love the music and relish it’s always superb performance.

I will go on listening, regardless of the bishop’s views – to which I am compelled to respond traditionally. Bah! Humbug!


David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk

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