Brewing underneath the surface of holiday cheer is the Christmas menace. Every year, it happens. (Fox) news reporters, irate politicians, disgruntled patriots, and a variety of others are decrying the abuses inflicted upon Christmas. There is an alleged war on Christmas. Something or someone is attacking this precious holiday.
What’s Really Attacking Christmas?
Suspects: Are these the malevolent Christmas destroyers?
What’s the big deal? What is attacking this Christian holiday? Here are some options.
- Santa. Rearrange the letters in his name, and you have the menace you’re looking for: S-A-T-A-N. Is this Ho-Ho grinch robbing us of the Reason for the season?
- Store attendants saying “happy holidays.” If you have any Christian sense about you, you’ve probably wanted to lambast the snarky, Christ-rejecting, overworked Sears attendant who greeted you with a “happy holidays.” Perhaps this irreligious greeting is the real demise of the authentic Christmas.
- Christmas trees. What are Christmas trees, but the trappings of paganism, debauchery, and idol-worship?
- Renaming “Christmas trees” as “holiday trees?” If Christmas trees are actually sacred relics of a Christian Christmas, then it is an attack on Christmas to call them “holiday trees.”
- Banning nativity scenes. When local authorities refuse to allow manger scenes and nativity displays on public property, perhaps this is the ominous harbinger of doom for Christmas.
- Commercialization. This is a threat indeed. The world has turned Christmas into a materialistic frenzy. The (conservatively estimated) price tag for Christmas last year was $450 billion. Four-hundred-fifty. BILLION. (Yes, “billion.”) This kind of pernicious greed has surely cut the soul right out of a sacred Christmas.
But are these really the enemies of Christmas? Is it any one of them? Or all of them? Or is it CNN, NPR, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Starbucks coffee, the economic downturn of 2008, the Muslim immigration problem, undocumented aliens, Apple computers, or your next door neighbor whose rotating Santa display, inflatable snow globe, and 29,080 Christmas lights are driving you crazy?
Hold on a minute.
Let us admit that any of the suspects mentioned above can be a problem. Surely, we should bemoan a commercialized Christmas, and a Christ-rejecting society.
But think about it.
Perhaps the repudiation of Christmas by non-believing people shouldn’t bother us as much as it does. Nor should it surprise us. Are we really expecting non-believing people to live by Christian principles, and to want manger scenes, and to hear reminders of Christ in every holiday greeting?
Of course not. Non-believing people do not want Christ. They don’t want the reminder of their sinfulness—a sinfulness that can only be cured by a righteous Savior sacrifice. They don’t want Christmas. They want replacements.
When we try to foist upon the world our Christian Christmas, we are insisting on moralism, not Christianity. Moralism is damnable, because it holds out self-righteousness as salvation.
Does the world hate Christmas? Don’t be surprised. Jesus Himself, the very Reason for Christmas, warned us about this (John 15:18, and 1John 3:13).
Christmas, regardless of how you celebrate it or when you celebrate it, is a distinctly Christian holiday. The commercialized iteration celebrated worldwide isn’t the Christian Christmas.
So, what is the Christian Christmas?
What makes Christmas Christian, anyway? Here it is.
The essence of Christmas is the incarnation.
Jim Wallis wrote,
“The theological claim that sets Christianity apart from any other faith tradition is the Incarnation. God has come into the world to save us….That is the meaning of the Incarnation. That is the reason for the season. In Jesus Christ, God hits the streets.”
Christmas is about the incarnation. Period. The incarnation is not some wispy bit of nebulous theological erudition. It’s not a scholarly, dusty, topic of irrelevance.
The incarnation is the flesh-and-blood Jesus. It is God in the flesh. He strapped on sandals. He walked dusty roads. He put his arm around smelly fishermen. He comforted dirty prostitutes. He fed hungry paupers. He railed against hypocritical self-righteous prudes. He healed the filthy leprous outcasts of society. He tenderly touched the blind man’s eyes to make him see.
And then one day, he took a cross, that instrument of torture and death, upon His bleeding back, and tried to carry it up a hill. He gave his arms, his feet, his body over to the unspeakable abuses of his tormentors.
He suffered. He bled. He died.
Because He is a man. Because He is incarnate God.
And here we have Christmas.
The real attack on Christmas comes when Christians syncretize or blend a non-Christmas celebration into the distinctly Christian celebration. What we’re left with is a godless hybrid holiday. The incarnation is gone.
If the essence of Christmas is the incarnation, than the real attack on Christmas comes when we neglect the incarnation.
So, if the Sears attendant gives you the courtesy of a “happy holidays” or if your neighbors spinning Santa makes you nauseous. Or if you read a Fox news report about a politician using the term “holiday tree,” then do something.
Think of the incarnation.
Realize that the incarnation is what Christmas is all about. Thank God for the incarnation, pray for those who don’t know about the incarnation, and celebrate the true Christmas in all its undiluted reality.