The War on Christ-Mas

I tend to shy away from the news, mostly because around this time of year it’s the same things. Likewise, it’s hard to find an unbiased news source anymore. But one thing that always gets me is this time of year, the news (specifically Fox News) gets obsessed with the idea of the “War on Christmas™” and how the secularists are out to destroy Christmas. The Grinch is far less subtle in our modern world; he’s green, but not in his fur, just his lifestyle; he takes your presents, not out of resentment, but because the poor, oppressed, and Jews can’t have them; his heart does grow, but unfortunately it bleeds; that is the modern day Grinch according to those who believe there is a war on Christmas.

And let’s be honest, some of the claims are absolutely ridiculous. The idea that “Merry Christmas” will offend someone is, in itself, intellectually offensive. It is no more offensive than Happy Chanukah or when I’m greeted with “assalam alaikum” by Muslims. If a town is predominately Jewish and they’d rather display a Menorah than a Christmas tree, then so be it. The obsessiveness with which we’ve pursued political correctness is almost scary and would be the thing of futuristic satire a century ago; unfortunately, it’s quite real in our own.

But for all the absurdity, those who would fight the secularist Grinch have already fought a war against Christ-mass and won. Were Christmas a person, he would be laying on the ground, bloodied, with the Christian consumerists holding the bloody knife, now wielding it against those who wish to come up and kick Christmas while he lay a bloody mess.

This is not another rant against Capitalism, nor is it a rant against buying gifts on Christmas. I understand the tradition and let’s be honest, seeing a child’s face light up when he opens a gift on this special day is a wonderful thing. But the meaning of Christmas was lost long ago. Presents have become the focal point of Christmas with everything else – the goodwill towards others, the reflections on Christ’s birth, the importance of what Christ accomplished – being merely auxiliary to the giving and receiving of gifts.

When Christmas is attacked, we are offended because it attacks our sense of nostalgia, for Christ-mass has long suffered a fatal blow, but we prop up Christ-mass to make our defense of Christmas nobler. Yet, while we faithful adherents to the Christian faith stand our ground to have our Christmas trees displayed prominently in the town square and to have the term “Happy Holidays” stricken from our vocabulary, children are writing letters to Santa Claus asking for socks, for coats, for the basic necessities. Ah yes, we valiant defenders of the faith, who would throw our bodies in front of a Christmas tree in order to prevent the secularist from tearing it down, or more appropriately, would throw the body of the poor child in front of it first.

We have killed Christ-mass for Christmas. We have substituted the meaning of Christmas, which is God has come in human form to save us from ourselves, for a very secular meaning. We give a nod to Christ, but use Him to prop up the ceremony, so Christ points to the ceremony. We invite Jesus over, but only to decorate the tree.

There are many who agree with me, wanting to do away with the ceremony, the pageantry, the gift-giving, and anything we now recognize as Christmas. “Besides,” say those who agree with me with a puff of intellectualism, “Christ wasn’t even born in the winter.” This, of course, causes a long drawn-out discussion on the plausibility of Christ having been born in the winter.

But to commit the unthinkable and turn on my last refuge of allies, I must say their arguments are misplaced. Such arguments no more bring our focus back to the meaning of Christmas than criticizing the United States makes us pine for Canada. Furthermore, I would argue that celebrating Christmas – or more appropriately the Incarnation and the beginning of man’s salvation – in the winter makes quite a bit of sense. To quote from G.K. Chesterton’s book The New Jerusalem,

“Whether we regard it [Christmas] as the divine purpose of a mystery or the human purpose of a myth, the purpose of putting such a feast in winter would be just the same in Bethlehem as it would be in Balham. Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous, but a winter fire for the unfortunate.”

I love such a sentiment and I agree with it. I could care less if Christ were born in the winter or in the summer or in the autumn, the merely fact that Christ was born is enough for me, and to think such an event happened in the winter makes it all the better.

Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation, of God coming down and fulfilling His promise to save us from ourselves, but it is so much more. Christmas a celebration of when human flesh was inhabited by the Divine so that all men might say that the flesh they hold onto, the flesh that curses them, the flesh that betrays them and makes them weak, was (and is) inhabited by God, by the Person of Christ.[1]

While such an event reminds us of our own salvation from our sins, it should encourage us even further. It should encourage us to remember that the Incarnation serves as an example to those who follow Christ. While we are not divine like Christ, we are “divine” in the sense that the Holy Spirit resides within us, that is, God is within us. If Christ was able to humble Himself and serve the “least of these,” then certainly we should be capable of such an act.

While we should aid the poor and oppressed year round, if nothing else let us do it at Christmas time. Let us help the poor so no child has to write a letter asking for basic needs, but instead can ask for toys and fun items. The gift of loving actions speaks far more than gifts under a tree.

None of this is to say we should give up on our own gift-giving or ceremonial enjoyments of Christmas. Certainly these things make Christmas fun. But let the ceremony point to the Savior and not the other way around. Let us resurrect Christ-mass and place the Incarnation as the central aspect of our celebrations. For those who are rich, invite the poor of your church or local community to spend Christmas with you, to have dinner, to open gifts (that you have purchased if they could not do so). To the poor, be reminded that you have been given a gift by Christ.

The meaning of Christmas isn’t found under a tree, in a neatly wrapped box, or behind a beautiful decorations and lights; the true meaning of Christmas is found under the overpasses, in the broken home, in the “least of these,” in a manger. The true meaning of Christmas is found in offering salvation to those who would only hope for socks, to provide love to those who would merely request a respite from the pain, to tell the sinner that Immanuel has come to warm the cold winter’s night of the soul.

[1] I am being careful in my wording so no one thinks that I am asserting that the God-head partook in the Incarnation. Rather, the Father and Spirit did not take on human flesh, only the Word, but the Word still held His divine nature. The human nature and Divine nature did not mix or create a new thing, but rather the Word paradoxically held dual natures, one human and one Divine. But the early Church and Scripture are both adamant that we share in the flesh with the Divine, though the God-head did not partake in the flesh.