My friend, who doesn't darken the doors of any church, says he loves carols. He doesn't go in to one to sing along, however. He is an atheist-agnostic and thinks churches are where certain kinds of people gather to tell other people what to do. But carols, they are great, and are all about - well, I don't know. They might be about nostalgia for being younger, or generating a bit of tinsel like when having a tree in a house in December and January. I don't put a tree up. I admit I paid 49p for a little church with snow on, because it reminded me of a municipal type church with red brick bits and a Victorian steeple - but it is for all year round and joins other such tat.
I do not like carols. Or let's say, I don't like most carols. They are sugary and yucky, and they go on and on. People have to do them, get through them, make sure they sing enough of them. This includes Unitarians. I run out of breath; I get tired singing them. Christmas brings out the Puritan in me. I was like this when Anglican but I would be like Samuel Charles who preached on Sunday December 25th and didn't mention the mythical birth of Jesus or any of the other packaging.
Why on earth do Unitarians celebrate Christmas? Some actually believe in the the Christ figure as at least the (to them) properly mythologised exemplar; a few might still believe in the supreme incarnation of all Spirit-containing humans. Of course these folks should not be denied a few carols, but not a carol service surely?
I think Jesus was born unknown in somewhere like Nazareth or Capernaum or even Zippori (Sepphoris) and like all humans needed a sperm from a man and an egg from a woman. His formative period as a youth might be interesting, but not his birth. There is no evidence for any census and the account of those in power to cause it makes no historical sense. The parents neither went to nor started out from Bethlehem. So I don't want to sing carols to a myth I care little about even if I regard Jesus as an interesting (and a flawed) character when a man.
I do have a little model of Baby Krishna. Now I like little Krishna because he was a naughty boy, and surely that is an incarnate thing. He swallowed soil and when he was told to open his dirt-filled mouth, the universe was inside. He was also a playful youth, like he nicked the girls' clothes. But Jesus, ah he was always perfect yet of lowly birth, and that's just plain silly. OK, not if you read The Infancy Gospel Of Thomas: then he was like Superman having to curtail his powers and his mum and dad were very cross with him at times. But the churches don't read this at Christmas, or any other time. I'm obviously dealing with myths here. The real Jesus: now he picked capable self-supporting men to go around with him, and one wonders if Mary Magdalene had some dosh too. They weren't at the bottom of the pile and they didn't live on fresh air.
One reason I am Unitarian inclined is because I don't want to celebrate him particularly and would even like to move on. I cannot see any reason to immerse myself in that biography-like narrative, especially so early on. Thanks to the weather this year I have sung fewer carols, and that makes me happier, though I have absented myself from such services in the past. When people in the Church of England absent themselves from Christingle services, they are only doing what I have done more thoroughly. That's a definite no, and I like oranges.
Some Unitarians sing carols because they also celebrate the universal baby, a sort of myth extracted out of the particular and into the general. The baby is the beginning, the innocent, the joyful face and the delight of life. Great. Can't such a thing be said more directly?
Some Unitarians sing carols because they are about the turn of the year. I'm sure members of the Unitarian Earth Spirit Network will have their evergreens. There are a few focussing like that, so why not sing these carols? We reflect on time, after all, going round in circles and yet everyone getting older. Some fall off the conveyor belt of life and then, of course, there are the babies just setting out. But many of these carols are dual carols, about Jesus the baby and the turn of the year.
However, I used to like the idea of Midnight Mass, and even went when I'd stopped communicating. I like the idea of a service that, held at midnight, turned a corner in time and a community stood in their coats breathing out steam. But I still didn't like the carols. Perhaps I should have been around a fire with Pagans but then I don't feel that motivated to go out and find them and to change my attitude about putting up some tree.
I'm in the fortunate position where no one will send me presents and I don't want to send any out. I don't want cards and I'm not sending any. My budget for Christmas is zero, and I prefer it that way even if there is some compulsion involved. I'm already hitting the mute button for programmes advertised on television and the adverts are detestable. I'm a miserable sod and that's how I like it, but unlike the Puritans I say others can get on with it.
If you like it, do it. Perhaps no one who turns up that once a year needs to give a reason. People do still turn up once a year for that special, different, experience of singing rhymes about birth, just as fewer turn up in Easter for stuff about death and new life. Good for them.
Thanks for the drawing Lesley. I like it but my same friend who likes carols says it makes me look as if I've had a stroke.
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