Two different and opposing attitudes to Christmas have caught my attention: the first, from an article by Amanda Craig in the Telegraph of Saturday, 21 December and the second, from an article, also in the Telegraph, by A N Wilson on Boxing Day.
Amanda Craig applauds Christmas (and the cards that accompany it) but not the belief that inspires it. She writes “I was particularly delighted to get a card this year from Philip Pullman – whose magnificent novels have caused my own children to reject the possible existence of God – featuring an angel.” How sad that Pullman’s writings should have had this effect. It would not have displeased the author who is on record for his keen endorsement of atheism and his dislike of the children’s books of CS Lewis because of the Christian inspiration behind them.
It may also be the case that what Craig’s children have rejected is not the God of Christianity, who became incarnate in Christ, but Pullman’s own “version” of God, somewhat coloured by his atheism. Perhaps they should return to Narnia; I predict that Aslan, Lewis’s magnificent talking beast, reflecting the beauty and wisdom of God, will live on in the imagination long after Pullman’s armoured bears will have fought their last battle.
A N Wilson, who has written very pessimistically about the survival of the Christian faith in this country, ends his article – “It’s the Gospel truth – take it or leave it “ – with these insightful words: “The paradox is that growing or shrinking numbers do not tell you anything. The Gospel would still be true even if no-one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried – where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed … it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.”
Yes indeed. The baby in the manger at Bethlehem is not a sentimental Christmas card scene – though many are produced at this time of year – or an unusual fairytale (I note that Pullman likes to keep the idea of angels; after all, they make useful and decorative magical props). Christmas reminds us that God became man. He entered our world and, as Wilson observes, transformed it by his birth. Nothing will ever be the same again – thank God.
And a Happy New Year to all Herald readers.