Dec 9, 2012
Here is a holiday surprise: Let us celebrate Easter this Christmas! Or Ascension Day, or All Saints Day, or any other day of the church calendar.
The current assault on Christmas around the world, particularly virulent in the United States, properly should be seen for what it really is: a tool, a weapon, just one battle in the war on Christianity. The Brave New World of tomorrow, where piety is mocked, religion is persecuted, and God is denied… is here, today.
The multitudinous forces that attack Christianity are doing a favor to the remnant of believers, in one sense: they clarify the issue at hand. The world has always hated us; the world system works against us; the world, the flesh, and the devil ceaselessly work to do us harm. Rather, they rail against God Almighty, and, often, we are in the way.
But the very specific, and frequently absurd, crusade against Christmas has caused me to sit back and assess matters.
Christians, sitting around the dinner table, or at church suppers, are incensed when municipal governments remove Christmas trees, when restaurants take down colored balls and angels from seasonal ornamentation, when schools and offices yield to pressure and remove red and green decorations, and call Christmas holidays a Winter Break.
All of a sudden Christians find themselves mustering their courage, channeling their outrage, to stand up for Christmas – in the forms of Santa Claus and reindeer; cartoon elves; lawn displays of Scooby Doo and snowmen with red caps and scarves; and, boldly, saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” to anyone we choose, in open view. They fight for nativity scenes in public squares (usually if Zoroastrians and Druids can have equal space). They pointedly will say “Christmas tree” and not “Holiday tree.”
THIS is what Christmas means to a lot of Christians? Defending Santa Claus to the death? Preserving plastic Wise Men in the town square? Playing “White Christmas” on the radio where you work?
Where is the Jesus in all this? – except for our “reason for the season” bumper strips. Are we making a god of the fat guy in the red suit? Why doesn’t our religion get it over with, and have a holiday with a pink Easter bunny in the manger, Santa on the cross, and communion with cookies and egg nog? The enemies of Christmas – of Christ – can go to hell, and I am not being coarse: I am stating a biblical truth. But a lot of Christians might join them, if in the process they are seduced into sublimating the Son of God to exalt the Commercial One (Santa), fellowship with the saints (shoppers), share the Truth (madly address Christmas cards), or sing for joy (about Rudolph). We make Christmas more of a secular holiday than atheists can ever dream of.
My suggestion for this Christmas season is based on the text “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” My subtext is that Jesus came not into the world in order to amaze shepherds that a virgin could conceive. God became man and dwelt among us in order to save humankind from its sins.
The cross, indeed, is the purpose of Christmas: the reason for the season.
Why do we compartmentalize Christmas and Easter? I exclude the obvious suspects from the ranks of record producers, TV programmers, and Hallmark cards. I propose we celebrate Easter this year at Christmas “time”! And that on Easter we meditate on the miracle of the Incarnation! On Pentecost, we can celebrate the sacrament of baptism! And so forth.
Is it a sin to sing a beautiful Christmas carol during the other 11 months of the year? What is wrong with saying “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” in December? When our faith is full, and our appreciation of the Lord transcends artificial boundaries, we can move in and out of spiritual ghettos to luxuriate in the fullness of God. Time-restricted holidays can be a curse.
So, let us fight as we can and when we can against the secularization of a culture that was built on biblical principles and a Christian heritage. Sure. But in the process, while fighting the atheists and secularists, let us not exalt Santa over Jesus.
Christians: replace “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas” with “Let’s keep Christ in Christianity.”
+ + +
Giants of the church like Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach, and I daresay Jesus Himself, would be pleased, and think it perfectly proper, that even a farmer who raises ducks would pause in the pen and sing praises to God. It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to the holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who overcame death and the grave; and by His glorious resurrection opened to us the way of everlasting life. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify His glorious name, evermore praising Him and singing. Here is a poultryman, making Holy ground of a duck house — a manger, if you will — just as we can celebrate Christmas on any old day of the year.
Click: Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring