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My little legalist

On Christmas music and other new pieces of Christmas legislation


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My little legalist
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Despite being well versed in the doctrines of grace, my wife, like many of us of the Reformed persuasion, is dazzlingly proficient at making new law. She is forever introducing new pieces of legislation on items ranging from how often we should eat out per week, to when we should go to bed at night for maximum health and, I dunno, spirituality or something. Which legislation we usually both, then, summarily ignore. But there seems to be some real joy in creating it (and then ignoring it).

My little legalist, I call her.

I know we are barely into November, but how now should we think of Christmas music? This seems to be an item of special concern this time of year, as the temperatures drop and thoughts turn to family visiting, shopping, eating, and then family leaving. But I’m going to address not only when someone should start listening to Christmas music, but also several other items of controversial Christmas-related law.

Warning: The following includes some blisteringly hot takes, so if you’re the kind of person who is “triggered” (quotation marks because I don’t actually use that word, due to being over 30 years old) by a man with opinions on all kinds of banal Christmas-related things, perhaps you should click away.

Christmas music

Only when it’s cold. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Cold is subjective. … I mean, if you live in certain parts of the mid-South, 61 feels cold, but if you live in say, Fargo, 61 feels downright balmy.”

My answer? Freedom in Christ, but only as it doesn’t cause a weaker brother to stumble. Meaning, if it’s 71 and sunny in September, and you’re listening to “Santa Baby,”* we may have a problem. If this is too much freedom for you, then Nov. 1 is an acceptable day to begin listening to Christmas music, though my wife would say, “After Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving deserves to be its own thing.” But she’s a legalist.

*A note on pop Christmas songs: “Santa Baby” is never admissible. Ditto for “A Very Special Christmas,” which will for sure make you want to gouge your eardrums out in the grocery store. The Paul McCartney one is okay but only in a retail setting. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” but for oddly specific movie reasons (more below).

Die Hard is in the canon. It’s silly to me that we’re still fighting this battle, lo these many years later.

Advent books

How can you, in good conscience, call yourself a middle-aged, mid-shelf, husband/father/author/pastor and not have at least one advent book to your name? Here’s the selling point: You don’t have to write that many words, and there’s only so many new ways to say something that has been said thousands of times before by similar authors. And you can supplement the words with “spaces for reflection” or “artwork contributed by your hipster friend.” Ideally both.

Get to work, pastors. If you don’t, you’re leaving a book advance and a chance to be insufferable on Twitter, on the table. That’s just bad stewardship.

Christmas movies

White Christmas over It’s a Wonderful Life. There it is, I said my piece. Please direct all hate mail to info@wng.org. Think about it. Would you rather listen to Jimmy Stewart whine about his life for a couple of hours, or see Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sashaying from the battlefields of WWII, to Miami, to a bucolic resort somewhere in the Northeast that they have to singlehandedly resurrect the fortunes of, all while wooing a couple of sisters who also sing, all during Christmas? I’m in. White Christmas is also full of prescient people-using-other-people-media-industry commentary that holds up to this day.

Die Hard is in the canon. It’s silly to me that we’re still fighting this battle, lo these many years later. As New York police detective John McClane once said to coked-out Nakatomi executive Harry Ellis, “Missed some.” If you miss “Die Hard,” you’re missing out on a lovely Christmas tradition and that’s all there is to it.

Honorable mention goes to Love, Actually which is a semi-trashy (use discretion) ensemble rom-com that managed to pull Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Billy Bob Thornton, Alan Rickman (see: Die Hard, above), Emma Thompson, and Keira Knightly, all at the apexes of their careers and that also manages to say some semi-important things vis-à-vis relationships and commitment and not having affairs. It’s got a few rom-com tropes I’m always “in” on: somebody chasing somebody else through an airport in order to declare love, somebody being a novelist and insisting on using a typewriter, and somebody learning a musical instrument just to woo/impress somebody else.

Real candles at your Christmas Eve service

Yes.

Christmas Eve services in general

Yes, but keep them short, Reformed guys. This is not the night to go 55 minutes with a half-dozen “false endings.” It’s a sermon, not a jazz record.

You know I’m right.


Ted Kluck

Ted Kluck is the award-winning internationally published author of 30 books, and his journalism has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, USA Today, and many other outlets. He is screenwriter and co-producer on the upcoming feature film Silverdome and co-hosts The Happy Rant Podcast and The Kluck Podcast.  Ted won back-to-back Christianity Today Book of the Year Awards in 2007 and 2008 and was a 2008 Michigan Notable Book Award winner for his football memoir, Paper Tiger: One Athlete’s Journey to the Underbelly of Pro Football.  He currently serves as an associate professor of journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and coaches long snappers at Lane College. He and his wife Kristin have two children.


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