Christmas unfashionable? Maybe because Jesus is missing…

The Power Index has published The Christmas Power List with, in their view, the top 10 power-mongers of Christmas – as if it is even possible for those two concepts to go together with integrity given the origin of Christmas is the birth of a baby in a stable to teenage parents.

Nevertheless The Power Index has installed Santa as number one on The Christmas Power List followed by Apple and, further down the list, the likes of The Queen’s Message, Jingle Bells (recently winning a vote for the favourite carol), and finishing the top 10 with Christmas turkey.

Actually the list was cynical and shallow, reflective of the prevailing wind over Christmas this year. It is fashionable, it would seem, to bag Christmas because of its shallowness and yet its celebration is shallow for many because they cynics have hounded away any attempt to revive its deeper meanings.

Still, for the majority who have never heard of The Power Index, goodwill prevails, giving is a thing of generosity and love, if a bit annoying at times, and they are more than happy to sing carols full of religious truth.

And for the record, God came in at number 11 on The Christmas Power List because:

“God hasn’t made it into the Top Ten, even though his son has naming rights to the ceremony. Church attendances are down, and Jesus is barely getting a mention, even though it’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Media Monitors did a survey for The Power Index of Christmas stories over the last month and could find references to God or Jesus in only 2% of them. God has hit back by sending us lousy weather for Christmas, according to the long-range forecast.”

** Meanwhile it seemed unChristmas (in the same vein as unAustralian) to remove on Friday the energetic man who cleans car windows on the corner of Johnstone and Parrmatta Road, Annandale. True, he did look particularly wild on the day, but he is a fixture on the corner and does his best to bring good cheer with Christmas trees and various costumes.

We hope it didn’t spoil his Christmas and perhaps the two young Constables involved were unaware that there are some things that transcend the law.

** When Handel’s Messiah was first performed in London in 1743, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the excellent ‘entertainment’. Handel replied, ‘My lord, I should be sorry that I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.’

It is a fine line when using the arts between producing pleasure which might be described as ‘entertainment’ and producing pleasure that might lead to the profound. Handel may have felt he had stumbled on this point, but most who hear or perform this work would find that it does indeed make them better.

Hillsong has run foul of the same suggestion with The Power Index (again) and Sydney Morning Herald, jealous I think of the the church’s success, reducing it’s Christmas activities to ‘entertainment’.

The Power Index reported that Hillsong drew 20,000 or more people to be ‘entertained’ at their Christmas pageants, and is selling a new Christmas CD, which gives them a measure of Christmas control.

“Over the weekend, the Hillsong Church put on six shows of its version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with 20,000 free tickets handed out for the event in the Church’s Sydney heartland, Castle Hill.

“This week, the Church is targeting the punters with the release of their Christmas CD, Born is the King. The album is currently sitting in the No. 20 spot on the ARIA charts, just behind The Acoustic Chapel Sessions. Its first single has amassed 268,000 views on YouTube.”

The typical linking of Hillsong to money occurs in The Power Index article even though all their pageants are free and no one else is giving music away either (not since the heady days of Keith Green).

They did at least publish Brian Houston’s version of the purpose of their Christmas music:

“The purpose of this album – like all of our music – is to speak to the heart of people,” he said in a statement. “The Christmas story is a message of hope and love; it is about family, faith and generosity and I believe that Australians have a lot to be hopeful for this year.”

While no one will be putting Hillsong’s Christmas album on the same level as Handel’s Messiah, there is an uncanny similarity in purpose between the two…

** A Brazilian mum found hope in Christmas when her twins were born cojoined with their appearance being one body with two heads. This is how much of the media report the birth – “two-headed boy”. Refusing to be daunted it seems, their mother promptly named them Jesus and Emmanuel and was excited about taking them home.

** More enthusiasm there than among many 12-25 year old Australians in relation to Christmas. A survey by Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, showed that one in five young people would be relieved if Christmas was cancelled.

More than 500 people aged 12 to 25 took part in the survey, and only half of them said they would be disappointed if Christmas was cancelled. One third said Christmas makes them feel worse than usual and 58% cited ‘tensions between family members’ as a key reason for feeling negative about Christmas.

Headspace CEO Chris Tanti said, ‘The survey shows that many young people believe tensions among family members increase around the holiday season.

‘Christmas is a time for giving and receiving presents, but parents should also take the opportunity to exchange the gift of meaningful conversation with their child and see how they are coping.’ (Headspace offers confidential 24-hour support.)

** No wonder people are losing hope around Christmastime when even the CEO of Headspace can only describe Christmas as ‘giving and receiving presents’. Likewise, many of the people who rang in during James Valentine’s Grinch Hour on ABC Radio’s afternoon show, were fed up with Christmas mainly because of the shopping involved. Well then, don’t shop. Or shop in moderation. Or shop in the same measure as you help the poor.

** A Tweet from 2 GB’s Natalie Peter’s attracted some retweets today as it pointed out that the Retailers Association say we will spend $1.5 billion shopping on Christmas Eve and yet The Smith Family is still 34 per cent short of its $4 million target.(This figure has been reduced to 27 per cent at time of writing).

** Finally, in many small ways this year Christmas has been represented as unfashionable, mainly in the media context. While there have always been complaints about shopping and commercialisation, this year there seems at times to be a sharper edge, calling into question the legitimacy of the whole season. Perhaps it is a sign of the reach of new atheism. Maybe, like in Cromwell’s day, there will be a call to ban Christmas. Only this time it will be the secular puritans responsible.


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