Christmas the Noble Way: An interview with Mr Noble

On Wednesday the 30th of November, Anson L and I interviewed William Clarke’s College Chaplain, Mr Noble, to see his thoughts on celebrating Christmas and how to do so from a Christian perspective. We asked a series of questions over a period of about 45 minutes and received many useful insights into the festive season. 

Section 1: Advent 

One of the key ideas that Mr Noble put forth during the interview was that of advent. This is the idea of your celebrations for Christmas starting a month before Christmas, in which you celebrate and participate in events in the month leading up to Christmas. Mr Noble says that the advent period is “about Christian Community and it’s about Family Community”. Mr Noble went on to explain that the word ‘Advent’ meant the arrival or coming of something thus explaining the month of Advent in the Christian calendar as the month celebrating the coming of Christmas. 

Now one thing is commonly on people’s mind in this advent period, and that’s ‘presents’ and while these gifts might be on your mind, Mr Noble encouraged us to not have that be the focus of the Christmas season. This is because having ‘presents’ as the focus breeds greed and materialistic thinking. “If you’re thinking about Christmas and thinking about what you can give, that’s one thing. If you’re thinking about Christmas and thinking about what you can get, then I think that you have missed the core idea of Christmas.” Mr Noble went on to say that this selfish focus of Christmas is very present in society today and that the focus of Christmas should be on Christ. Mr Noble also explained the reason behind gift giving at Christmas; he said that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is to reflect God’s gift to us, that being the gift of Jesus. 

When asked what the focus of Christmas should be Mr Noble replied with this, “Well it’s a Christian event, but its lost that in our society for most people. For most people it’s about family… I think in our society there is a tendency to celebrate it as just a holiday and a fun time and not have it be about Christ.” Mr Noble then said that “a less than ideal way to celebrate Christmas, is without any reference to Christ” In essence, with Christmas being a Christian holiday, to truly celebrate Christmas is to celebrate it with Christ as the focus. 

Section 2: non-Christians Celebrating Christmas 

Whilst Mr Noble has no issue with non-Christians celebrating Christmas and enjoying a family holiday and festivities, he does pose the question of ‘what are you really celebrating?’ “Christmas is Christ so if you’re celebrating Christmas without him, I think you’re missing something really important.”  

Christmas is seen generally as an end-of-year gathering and a fun time to celebrate family and gifts. Whilst these are all good things, Mr Noble is curious about whether there is anything deeper for the non-Christians that celebrate Christmas. The main message of Christmas from Mr Noble’s perspective is that God has given us a gift, the gift of Jesus, and that this gift is worth celebrating. “Christmas is about God’s generosity.”  

Mr Noble says that he struggles to understand what non-Christians are celebrating on Christmas, as family ‘reunions’ can happen at any point of the year. “It’s great to have a family get together and so on but, they’re not really celebrating anything, they’re just having a good family time, which is OK.”  

Mr Noble went on to recount about his time living in Japan. In Japan, there is a Buddhist festival of the dead where everyone in the country goes on holidays. He said that even he, as a non-Buddhist was still very happy to take a few days off the 9-5. Basically, in Mr Noble’s wise mind, the convenience of the holiday is really the reason that many non-Christians celebrate Christmas and whilst understanding and seeing that as a nice thing to do, he continues to wonder, ‘what are you really celebrating?’ Mr Noble finished on this topic by saying “I’m certainly not a Scrooge who is going to say ‘oh, you’re not a Christian, you can’t have anything to do with Christmas.’” 


Section 3: Santa 

Mr Noble had some harsh words for old Saint Nick. When it came to the topic of Santa Claus, Mr Noble believed that Santa giving children presents takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, creating a focus on Santa and gifts rather than Christ. As mentioned earlier, having gifts as the main focus of Christmas is not a positive thing and it does not reflect the Christian nature of the holiday. The true origins of Santa Claus were also shared by Mr Noble: Saint Nicholas was a man who became a Saint because he gave gifts, so he was revered for that gift giving. Over time as the story of Saint Nicholas spread, and this great gift givers name was slowly warped. 

Perhaps from Saint Nicholas, Saint Ni-Colas, Saintni Cloas, Santi Claus to the Santa Claus we all know and love. The legend of Saint Nicholas has spread and spread until nowadays, it has more importance to some people than the actual story of Christmas, and that is what concerns Mr Noble. Mr Noble also mentioned that the name Santa is in fact an anagram of Satan, meaning they are the same letters just rearranged. Whilst this is just a fun coincidence, it is interesting to note. As Mr Noble says, “there are lots of fun things about Christmas” 

To conclude, there is a lot to be learnt from Christmas, and whilst there is certainly not only one way to celebrate it, there are also some things that Christians should do to make sure they remember the true significance of Christmas. God’s gift to all of us, the gift of Jesus is the first Christmas present and the true purpose of Christmas and so for those who are Christians, celebrating that gift should be your focus. And for those who are not Christians, one of the main messages from Mr Noble’s talk was to ask, ‘what are you really celebrating?’ Whilst it is fine to have a fun family day and to enjoy the year coming to an end, if you celebrate Christmas without focusing on Jesus, in Mr Nobles words “you are missing something really important.” 

So, during these Christmas holidays, while you’re having a good time, celebrating and enjoying a much-deserved break, try and think about why we celebrate Christmas and remember its true meaning.