Christmas has just come and gone again. You’re a smart person so I’ll ask you: How much did you learn about Christmas this year? It’s a festive season chock full of symbolism Christian, pagan, and commercial, but did you decode more of it this year than last, revel in its richness more knowledgeably? Did you, instead, just let it roll over you in a wave of the good, the bad, and the tasteless? Or did you, like some Christians have done and do to this day, actually resist all things Christmassy as a sinful blight upon the faith?
Regent’s Summer Programs is bringing to campus someone who has to rank as a global expert on all things Yule-ish. Gerald Q. Bowler (PhD, European history, King’s College, London) has been teaching history for years at the University of Manitoba. I met him when I taught there, and we quickly became friends. I found Gerry to be the heartiest of boon companions. (Yes, we talked like that when we were together, which drove our mutual friend Roger Berrington, the Navigators staff worker at U of M, absolutely nuts when the three of us would go to Jets hockey games together. I remember Roger finally snorting in despair and smacking me on the arm during the second period one night and I realized Gerry and I had been making one joke after another about the Realist-Nominalist controversy in the later middle ages. I mean, how could we help it, once we got going? Ever hear the one about Ockham’s actual razor? Anyhow…)
During that time, Gerry turned his considerable powers of research and his even more considerable wit to the study of Christmas. He eventually published The World Encyclopedia of Christmas (2000), and followed that up with a splendid biography of You-Know-Who a few years later. He’s now finishing a book on how Christians have, in divers times and places, cautiously allowed, enthusiastically embraced, or fiercely opposed the celebration of Christmas.
How can you not want to take one week of your life to find out everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, and much more? Of course you do.
And from such a lecturer! Gerry once let me prevail upon him to see his course evaluations. I knew he had been a very popular teacher, despite his reputation for rigor, and I wanted to learn how he pulled off that difficult balance. I was astonished: He had the best course evaluations I had ever seen. And I’ve chortled my way through speeches of his since then, so I can vouch for his pedagogical prowess myself.
Yes, yes, we have lots of highbrow theological, artistic, philosophical, ethical, spiritual, and other stuff for you at Regent this coming summer. We always do, and 2014 looks especially terrific in all those regards. But surely some of you will want to dive into this fascinating subject–a subject rife with theological, artistic, philosophical, ethical, spiritual and other implications–with a world-class authority and a very swell guy…to enjoy much more all the Christmases you’ll ever have.
Regent College: Find your Way here!