I genuinely love Christmas…
Well, I try to love Christmas. I try really hard.
Because between the decorations that have been on display at Home Depot since Halloween and the Black Thursday insanity and the stress of shopping and social events, I have a love-hate relationship with the holiday now. Christmas has become hard to love.
Of course, there are a lot of people who are trying to combat the disease that plagues Christmas by waging a war on Jesus’ behalf. There are signs in my neighborhood yards now that say:
“Merry Christmas! (Happy Birthday, Jesus!)”
Yeah, if you didn’t catch the “Christ” in bold, they spell it out for you by wishing Jesus a happy birthday.
And of course, there is the annual tradition of demanding that store clerks wish us “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” After all, Jesus said, “Why do you wish each other Happy Holidays? Do not even the pagans do that?”
It’s all in the name of “keeping Christ in Christmas.”
But I ask you: does Christ even want to be kept in Christmas? Did we ask him in the first place?
Maybe it would be best if we just left Jesus out of the whole thing altogether.
Taking Back our Pagan Traditions
We all know that Christmas has its Christian as well as pagan roots. Virtually all of the symbolism, the traditions, everything save the manger are borrowed from various pagan traditions. For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If we only engaged in traditions that are biblical…well, we wouldn’t have very many traditions, would we?
But now, we are faced with a situation where essentially that “pagans” have turned Christmas into their own holiday. It’s kind of fittingly ironic, isn’t it? Christians dress up a cobbled-together holiday with a Jesus-y pageant, and now secular culture around the world has borrowed our already-regifted holiday and used it for their own celebration of materialism and excess.
The idea of Christians trying to reclaim Christmas is just a tad ironic in that light.
The modern war on Christmas goes deeper than irony though.
Would Jesus Celebrate Christmas?
I think most of the battle over Christmas is just a spectacle, an illusion. And nowhere is that more apparent to me than in our retail stores.
The cashiers at retail stores are the subject of annual focus, specifically how they greet their shopping patrons.
So we agree that Christmas has become completely bastardized, a shell of it’s real meaning, an excuse for wonton materialism? And our solution is to try to force the person at the epicenter of that materialism to invoke the word “Christmas?” To actually speak the name of Christ in the midst of that financial transaction?
To me, that’s where we get it wrong. That’s actually the opposite of what we should do. Because what we are doing is actually an endorsement of the materialism. If we Christians win and get retail clerks to invoke our holiday, then it is not they who are endorsing us. It is we who are endorsing the rampant materialism. We are saying, “This is Christmas! This is all there is to it! This is Jesus! Jesus is stuff! Merry Christmas!”
If I were Jesus, I’d want my name left out altogether.
Taking Christ’s Name In Vain at Christmas
What it all amounts to, really, is taking Christ’s name in vain.
Attaching Christ’s name to materialism and excess is taking his name in vain.
Invoking his name for our political causes and social agendas is taking his name in vain.
Forcing a cashier who doesn’t necessarily believe in Christ to speak the name in Christ amounts to taking his name in vain.
To be honest, I’d be happy if Christmas went away. By that, I mean I’d be happy if people stopped calling the secular holiday we observe “Christmas.”
Okay, maybe that goes too far. I love Christmas and all the traditions that go with it. And in that sense, I’m not willing to buck the culture enough to make a real difference.
But Christmas does not happen because we put signs in our yard or force people to acknowledge Christ at the store.
Christmas happens because Christ became incarnate in the world, even though practically no one noticed.
What do you think? Is Christmas irrevocably tainted, beyond repair? Would it be better if people stopped attaching Christ to our modern Christmas? Or can Christmas somehow be rescued from all the people who celebrate it?