This Month in SEC History: December 1973

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by Mike Stroud

Fifty years ago this month, a prominent Southeast Conference pastor had re-printed an article he wrote for his congregation’s newsletter, “The Minister’s Word on the Holidays,” in The Southeast News. The Rev. David Beebe, now deceased, was pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He wrote on the very different attitudes of the UCC’s Puritan forebears had toward what we these days call “the holiday season’:

“Thanksgiving is here! Followed almost immediately by the season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas. And the Christmas season is followed by New Year’s. This is the time we call in America ‘the holidays.’ It is interesting how we came to celebrate such a long season.

“It began in Scotland where some dour dominies (clergymen) decided not to celebrate Christmas. But the people, not permitted to celebrate the coming of the Light of the Word, began to celebrate instead the coming of the new year. And then our Puritan ancestors in early New England objected to Christmas too as a ‘Romanizing custom.’ So the people instead celebrated Thanksgiving for God’s gift of the harvest.

“The result of all this objection to Christmas was the Christmas holidays! I think there is a lesson here. The people sometimes are wiser than the theologians and they know that it is good to celebrate God’s gifts.

“I remember reading once of a young man out boating with a Puritan clergyman. The young man was observing the beauty of God’s world. The clergyman responded: ‘Young man, beware of pantheism.’ Certainly he was wrong and it is good to see the hand of God at work in the beauty of (God’s) world, including the changing of the seasons, which we see around us now.”