Christmas vs. Civil Religion

Over at Restoring Shalom, Brian Gorman (no relation :-) ; just kidding) has a post on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with excellent insights about Christmas and civil religion. (True confessions: he wanted us to watch the movie before church on Christmas Eve; I said I did not think it was much of a Christmas-Eve film, but he [again] proved me wrong.)

Also, in contrast to that kind of civil religion, here is a favorite poem of mine, which I read at Christmas dinner:

The Risk of Birth

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And, by a comet the sky is torn—
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

—Madeleine L’Engle

5 Responses to “Christmas vs. Civil Religion”

  1. Libby says:

    I love M L’E, but haven’t read much of her poetry–where is this one from?

  2. MJG says:

    Hi, Libby,

    The poem comes from, and provides the title for, a small collection of poetry called “The Risk of Birth: a Gift book of Christ-poems,” published in 1974 and edited by M L’E's friend and fellow poet Luci Shaw, whose poetry I also recommend.

  3. Ellen Kievit says:

    Hi Mike,
    This poem is so timely for my family. We have six grandchildren now. I see the risks my children take for love. My husband and I jump in and and say, we too! We rejoice that all is possible with God.
    Happy New Year.
    Ellen Kievit

  4. MJG says:

    Hi, Ellen,

    And thanks for stopping by! Yes, this poem has several layers of meaning. Congratulations on all the grandchildren, blessings on all of you in the new year!


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