Spirits of Christmas Present
Maelstrom on Christians and Christmas
Gruamuc, our little apprentice tempter-demon is once more asking big brother and senior demon, Maelstrom, for advise. What should he do to his Christian "patient" to assure that he will not enjoy Christmas? How is it possible to ruin it not just for his patient but for others in his life–friends, family, and strangers?
In his reply Maelstrom, a character based on Screwtape, from C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, cuts to the chase. Gruamuc must get his patient's eyes off his Lord and ruin relationship, both the relationship between him and his God (the "Enemy") and between him and anyone associated with him. Ironically, the Christmas season is a perfect time to affect this. The time of the year when society is lost in the "Xmas Rush" and its ensuing chaos is a ripe time for heavy demonic activity among us?
‘Tis the season for some folly.
Yes, Gruamuc, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. This season, dear good-for-nothing, is one which fills me with pleasure, with new anticipation, with renewed hope of some semblance of victory before The Final Day comes. Why? you snivel. Why now, of all times of the year, for unabashed pleasure?
This occasion called Xmas [It is expressly forbidden in Hell to use the term "Christmas." Ed.], my tiny malodorous twit of a sibling, is that special period late in their year which masquerades as a religious holiday. In fact it is pregnant with confusion and stress and commotion and chaos. Oh! those words awaken in me recollections of the days of my youth, when making a widespread farce of the Xmas season was something new and challenging. Most Americans, I am happy to report, are now completely won over to that new celebration of Xmas, our celebration of Xmas. Your patient, however, as expected by your continually irresponsible handling of him, still holds to some puritanical views of that dreaded day when the Enemy was born into this falling world, becoming as one of them. Not to lose heart, though; he, too, along with the maddening crowds can be made to lose sight of the Enemy almost entirely. Don’t you love the irony? We have taken the Day which used to be so monstrously Enemy-centered, which in fact is named after Him, and disembowled it. We have so grossly annoyed and distracted Americans that they do not even invite Him to His own birthday party! It is too wonderful! We have managed, in a remarkable coup, to replace their "King of Kings" with jokers and fools; we have displaced their "Lord of Lords" with idols made of paper and plastic. Ho! Ho! Ho!
But I see in my excitement I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
There are two methods to use on your patient in order to take his mind off the Enemy during this Xmas season. Use the first method, well...first, you moronic stooge. It will segue beautifully to the second approach that I will describe in detail later.
The first method – not an ends, remember, but rather a means to an end – is to get your patient "wrapped up" into America’s present stage of our continually evolving version of Xmas. It is not my favorite modus operandi simply because it doesn’t accomplish as much spiritual destruction as the second method. And it doesn’t take much imagination, which is why it most likely will appeal to you at first. But the bottom line is this: Drown him.
Yes, drown him, Gruamuc. Drown him like a rat in that ocean of distractions we have spent so many years creating. What distractions? you must be croaking as you simultaneously struggle to read and comprehend. Any distractions that keep him from the reason for this season–the celebration of His awful birth.
Now, before I show you examples of how to divert him away, rest assured that time will be no problem here. Your slug-like, dimwitted ways of doing things will certainly require months to accomplish simple diversion, n’est-ce pas? Not to worry. We have special committees working out there every year trying to get the humans to start their celebration rituals as early as possible. Some avaricious entrepreneurs begin selling their Xmas wares in September no less! By October and November, shopping malls and department stores are brimming with the lights and trees and fabricated snow scenes and the sights and sounds of that dreadful, pudgy Claus clown. So, by the time December finally comes around, the adult humans are already sick to death of a holiday which originally celebrated The Life. And one of our Xmas wishes is fulfilled. Bottom line: you have months.
I’ll show you now some detail on how to irritate your patient to distraction. (Try, for the sake of Our Father Below, to utilize at least some of these suggestions. And – here is the tough part little brother – I strongly suggest that you make some semblance of an attempt to exercise a little, I don’t know, let’s call it creativity, in your personal dealings with your patient. Try, by yourself occasionally, to make life unbearable for him. Otherwise, your term as Apprentice Tempter will soon come to an end and you will be reassigned to some mundane task such as guarding Himmler or Caligula, or some other cretinous cowardly boor deep down.) Now, how to distract...
You have written that he annually sends those silly cards they send each other at this time. Then use those as a point of diversion. Make the card-sending seem like a tedious chore. That will cause him to make it quick and clinical. We don’t want quantity here as far as card writing is concerned, but we sure as hell itself don’t want quality, either. Set your patient in front of the HG [for household god = television. Ed.], Trading Spaces hypnotically bellowing away, a pen in one hand, an address book at his side, and get him to assembly-line out all his cards at one sitting; let him write away without the burden of thought or any stimulation by the Enemy.
What do you mean stimulation by the Enemy? The Enemy, my putrescent pusillanimous little piglet, can use this as a time for your patient to actually think about the people he hasn’t seen or spoken to in awhile. He can then use that thinking time to inspire your patient to contact that person or, at the very least, write something meaningful on those pathetic little cards.
Worse yet, your patient might be prompted to pray for that person. Hell forbid! You see again how the Enemy can use something commercial and turn it into good. (Will He never stop caring for those worms?) Finally, when he starts receiving cards, get him to make non-committed commitments such as "Well, shucks, I’ll have to get in touch with old so-and-so or what’s-his-name." He’ll forget about the people in a heartbeat – a strongpoint in humans.
Another distraction device is the blessed "gift." Ahh, yes, the gift. I looked into one of their dictionaries recently to keep up with the course I teach - Language Infections, English - LIE 101. (You might take it some century, you fool. You should always keep up on their tongue, Gruamuc. It’s a elegant tool to keep them saying one thing, but believing another.) Gift is defined as something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation. There’s a free laugh for you. You’d be hardpressed to name one human who doesn’t expect to get some compensation for his Xmas "gift."
Their high expectations in receiving a gift back can lead to some great fun; for example, watching a human receive a gift from another human for whom he’s not purchased one – yet. You can play this on your patient: Get him to forget to buy a gift for a close friend or relative. Then watch his face when that relative or friend suddenly presents him with a gift! Your patient will find himself lying about the fact that he has no gift to give at that moment — a "white lie" of course; even you must see that clever oxymoron. "Why, I must have left it at home," or "I haven’t wrapped it yet," or "It’s in the mail." In fact, there is no gift. But we can’t go and offend the gift giver who all the time is expecting "no compensation," now can we? Stress builds as your patient goes long for a return gift, to a mall, in the rain, with thousands of others who are out there "voluntarily" finding gifts for people they don’t care much for and from whom, of course, they expect nothing in return. I’ll never grow tired of hearing those stories.
Go and find, if you can, the letter I wrote last April concerning your patient’s birthday. The same advise for his birthday about gift-receiving applies here with Xmas. Without reiterating all the detail, you must remember to make sure that if the gift he receives is not as expensive as he expected, then somehow the person who gave him the gift doesn’t really care as much for him as he hoped; he has apparently overestimated their relationship. If the gift is more expensive than he expected, that means most likely that it cost more than he spent on that person. Therefore, his gift cannot be not good enough, and he should be ashamed and embarrassed and find some way to make up for it. All as if the real value of a gift lies in its cost, not in the heart of the giver. Humans actually lose sleep worrying about whether the gift they bought is big enough or expensive enough or impressive enough. Amazing! They have lost all concept of what giving is all about.
Gruamuc, ironically the least voluntary time of the year for Americans to buy gifts is Xmastime. The Enemy’s people during the rest of the year can sometimes be very "giving" in the Enemy’s dreaded sense of the word, but go and make the giving a required act, put a time limit on it, throw in some monetary competition, ask it to happen during one of the most hectic times of the year, and toss in some bad weather and you have yourself a weary, beat, stressed-out, and penniless patient whose time and effort and attention have been diverted away from the ultimate Gift-Giver. But wait, there’s more!
With all the card sending and "gift" giving; with all the trips to the stores through snarling traffic and inclement weather; with the flashing of plastic and accumulating debt that will haunt them far into next year; with all the lights, music and ho-ho-ho’s; with all the quarreling, battle-worn shoppers and over-burdened, borderline-psychotic store clerks, well, don’t look now but *BOOM* the day has arrived!!
Xmas is suddenly upon them like a swift right hook into the face of an already reeling boxer. The family - such as it is in 21st century America - all of them stressed out in their own right, manage to brave the elements and gather together and "celebrate."
They eat too much, drink too much, complain too much, argue too much. They pretend to like the presents they unwrap. The men sit down at the old HG to watch sports, the women clean up the temple. Then, hello! It’s time to go home. It is finished; the annual sacrifice to their gods is over. Months of planning and tension and anxiety and frustration have come to an exhausting and abrupt finale. But wait! "Something’s not cricket" as Screwtape, an arrogant old schoolmate of mine, would say. There’s something wrong here!
Gruamuc, can you figure out what’s missing from this nativity scene. Why, the Child! Where was the Child? He was never there, Gruamuc! There was no room at the inn of their hearts for the Child. Xmas in most American homes has been successfully changed into a good, old-fashioned, pagan holiday – eating, drinking, being merry, with an insincere nod to their gods thrown in - precisely what it was created to replace hundreds of years ago.
"But, surely my patient will see through this charade! He’s an intelligent child of the Enemy! He will discover and expose the scheme!!! Oh no! Oh help!" Oh, quit your infantile sniveling, you dungheap. That’s what we want, don’t you see? That is what the second method is all about. Go ahead and let him see through it all and be sickened by it. Let him expose it! He can bah-humbug the whole farce! Allow him to remake Xmas a holy and righteous holiday fit only for the Enemy’s true followers - like him! Your patient, the "Watchdog of All that is Wrong with the World" must warn the Enemy’s people everywhere that Xmas is pure pagan! Santa is Satan! That’s evil eggnog in that cup, mister! Those are hell’s bells on your door, you compromising reprobate. Bah humbug! What greater worker can we ask for than the patient who sees fit to cleanse Xmas of all tradition and at the same time ruin it for everyone.
Such a narrow-minded view of the Enemy’s day is what pushes those still in our grasp farther from Him and closer to us. Those under our influence see this imbecile as a self-righteous, self-absorbed, self-proclaimed prophet who, in his ultra-legalism, sucks the very Spirit out of Xmas. "And he represents the Enemy?" they ask themselves, "then I will have nothing to do with Him or that religion of His!"
And it is this myopic putz of an overactor who cannot see that the Enemy’s people are allowed to - I hate to use the word - enjoy both the Birth and the "healthy" elements of tradition!
Xmas for His people can be, regrettably, most pleasurable. They can see the Life represented by the Tree; that overweight guy in the red suit will exemplify to them the truly "voluntary giving without expected compensation;" and they can enjoy the silent celebration of a colorful light display while wallowing in the traditional music which still somehow manages to sneak in proclamations of His birth. And they can do it all with their eyes keenly fixed on Him!
Worse, they can be a dangerous witness of the Enemy’s love by not giving tradition the highest or the only priority, by not getting caught up in the Xmas stress, by not cutting off "that idiot" in the turn lane after the hustle and bustle at the mall, by saying a kind word of encouragement to the overworked store clerk, or by quietly giving a card or gift to someone who never expected one.
And no matter how much of the Enemy we succeed in removing from Xmas each year – and we’re doing a fine job - His own sons and daughters can always carry around with them the love that the Enemy has given them and which He personified in His birth. They can give that gift of love to anyone, anytime. We are helpless to steal that from them.
Gruamuc, there is still, thankfully, a lot of suicide, sadness, and depression at this time of the year precisely because a day which flaunts itself as providing meaning seemingly provides none. As long as His people are either 1) camouflaged beyond recognition by getting caught up in the commotion and commercialism of it all, or 2) are screaming the beautiful cacophony of anti-Santa Scrooge-like legalism, "those nonbelievers" will not see the Meaning of Life Himself, and we will accumulate more and more of the human feed down here.
But if you allow your patient to celebrate Xmas with his priorities set straight and sound - that is, Enemy first, tradition second - why, then, we lose our lunch.
Remember, little brother, Xmas is not a necessity for them. Unlike the Enemy’s death, they are not commanded in That Horrible Book to remember His birth. (In fact, every day could be for His people a minicelebration and remembrance of the Birth.) But Xmas does exist, and so we make the most of it; we see it as an opportunity, a great opportunity for chaos, confusion, and contradiction. Keep that tradition alive, Gruamuc!