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Keep Christ in Christmas?

December 7, 2012

Every year since I can remember, the holiday cycle goes like this:

* Right before Halloween, Christmas decor and ads appear. The black and orange Halloween candy gets marked down as fast as the red and white candy canes go up.

* The month of November is dominated by Christmas ads, catalogues, sale flyers, early-bird specials, and the big build-up to the so-called “Black Friday”.

* Everyone wrings their hands that Thanksgiving is getting drowned out by Christmas.

* As municipalities begin erecting Christmas displays, some party-pooper** threatens to sue for ‘violation of Church and state’. This leads to one of two reactions: 1) municipal leaders wimp out and don’t allow any displays; or, 2) municipal leaders dig in and vow to fight with all their resources to keep their creche on the courthouse square

* Sometime after Thanksgiving, the “keep Christ in Christmas” campaign begins

* The afternoon of Christmas Day, everything switches to getting ready for New Year’s Eve and on Dec. 26, the stores put up their Valentine’s Day displays

Every year, it’s about the same.

My biggest concern (besides being ‘allowed’ to shop barefooted), is that no matter how hard anyone tries, Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas.

Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the shopping, is He? We give gifts at Christmas in remembrance of two things: the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child and St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) brought gifts to poor children hundred of years ago. But Christ Himself is found in the giving, not in the shopping.

Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the Christmas decor. A few weeks ago, Karen and I were in that most WASP-ish of eateries, Cracker Barrel in Kokomo. (We are WASPs, after all, and we like fatty, sodium-infused foods :-)). As we browsed the Country Store (sic), there were racks and shelves full of “Christmas” items: ornaments, gadgets, clothing, themed gifts, etc. It took a lot of digging for me to find the two Nativity scenes they offered for sale. All around Kokomo there were illuminated snow flakes and Santas, jingle bells, winter scenes, etc., all of which are beautiful, but they are not Christ.

Christ isn’t even found in the Christmas muzak the stores play. I love it that stores play Christmas carols. But I find it off-putting that “O Holy Night” gets sandwiched between “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” I remember a few years ago when some beer company corrupted “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” into “Oh Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” The message of peace through Christ found in “God Rest Ye…” was displaced by young men partying and ogling beer-swilling women.

Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the courthouse creches, either. Don’t get me wrong, I like courthouse creches and I don’t have a problem with them. They are a reminder of the “reason for the season.” But more often I am reminded by the creche that Christ in society is largely ignored. Traffic streams past, people talking on cell phones or hurrying to work, and they barely notice the Babe in the manger scene. I think that if it weren’t for those lawsuits or some juvenile delinquent stealing the Christ Child figure from the manger, most people wouldn’t even notice that the creche is at the courthouse.

The thing is, Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas. All those things, as wonderful as they are, are not Christmas.

Christ can be taken out of the shopping, the muzak, the displays, the commercials, etc., because He really isn’t there to begin with.

Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas because Christmas marks the event that Christ was “put into” the world, never to be taken out again.

For those of us whose faith is in God through Christ, Christmas is an immutable reality. It was that way for centuries before shopping and Black Friday and Rudolph… the Christ Mass was a day of prayer and worship, preceded by a 40 day period of fasting known as Advent. No trees, no lights, no jolly old elves. Christmas for Christians was – and is – a day to “Hail th’Incarnate Deity.”

Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas as long as there are people who respond to God’s gift to the world in Christ. Our initial response is a personal one: we believe. However, that is not our only response. We are asked to respond to Christ every day by loving our neighbors, praying for those who persecute us, assisting the down-trodden, seeking justice for the poor, tending to the sick and imprisoned, being thoughtful of the shut-in, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a world that is depserately hungry for it.

Keep Christ in Christmas? Absolutely. How? By passing all the trappings and getting to the heart of it: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the Only-begotten, full of grace and truth.”

>[** A word about party-poopers: I don’t care if it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, the ACLU, atheists, or some off-beat sect, anyone who spoils someone else’s good time is a party-pooper. Christmas is the Christian’s ‘good time’. There is nothing to be gained by writing laws about Christmas displays other than creating more party-pooping, which only engenders ill-will and divisiveness. I don’t care whose ‘civil rights’ are being violated or not – if we can’t be civil in the first place, then what good are civil rights to begin with? I say, quit ‘pooping the party’ and either join the fun or create your own fun. It’s not worth the negativity to fight each other about things like Christmas.]


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