The Pendelum Swings Back Toward Christmas
Restore "Holy" To Holidays
I’m glad to see that “Christmas” is making a comeback. The pendulum had swung too far the other way, due to the defensive reaction to the complaints of the overly sensitive.
Some of those complaints were made in good faith by constitutional purists or by people who wished to quietly opt out of a celebration in which they did not believe. But some seemed driven by hostility to Christianity, targeting manger displays while ignoring menorahs or Ramadan observances. These efforts seemed devoted to making Christmas the holiday that dare not speak its name.
This led to two disturbing trends. The first was the demand that the majority warp its language to ignore reality. The American customs of decorating trees, gift-giving, carol singing, and time off from school and work are derived from the celebrations of the birth of Christ. The replacement term “happy holidays” is woefully inadequate when its effect is to leach the holiness out of the days. The religious festivals are the heart of the secular observances, and we ignore that connection at our peril.
The second trend was the pressure upon Christians to “keep it to themselves.” Some of the tactics insisted there was an ironclad boundary between private and public activity and that religion belonged solely to the private sphere. This requirements of this viewpoint are simply unacceptable to people charged by their religion to proselytize with their whole lives, in addition to being a distortion of the historical and constitutional record. So I’m glad to see some pushback on that front as well.
But caution is required. It is unseemly to see the defense of “Christmas” use the tools of sarcasm and spite and hyperlegalism to combat these trends. Christians bound by love ought not regard the restoration of the term as a test of political strength but as an opportunity to share the greater story. Perhaps we Christians become too comfortably lazy; when TV specials and shopping advertisements tell the story, maybe we don’t have to.
That would be tragic in two respects. First, the separation of all these wonderful themes of family and generosity and redemption and salvation from their rich religious heritage weakens them. Our “holiday traditions” will be like cut flowers: beautiful and fragrant, but removed from their source of life and doomed to decay. Finally, the story of the Incarnation is true, it’s beautiful, and people need to hear it.
So my holy day wish is for all people to grasp and believe the glorious story of the God who became a baby in order to save our souls. Gloria in excelsis Deo, and Merry Christmas!