Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Pushing Christ Out of Christmas May Not Be Such a Bad Thing

It's Christmas Time. We are right smack in the middle of the dog days of retail consumerism at its finest. This is the time of year when "paper or plastic" isn't about the sacks (perhaps you call them bags) used after the purchase, but rather the method of payment during the purchase. In America, the average person spends $750 on Christmas. When you think about all of the children who have no income and all the poor who may be baking or making gifts rather than purchasing, that leaves a much smaller segment of the population that actually does the purchasing. For this group, $750 is well on the low side.

This is also the time of year when we Christians get up in arms about how we are not keeping Christ in Christmas. Some of us send emails pointing out all the stores that are saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" and how we should not shop at those diabolic
al places. We demonize Santa calling him things like "Satan Claus" because he steals the true meaning of Christmas and hogs all of the yuletide cheer (even though his story is based on a real person who was a very selfless, giving individual). We get upset because courthouses don't have nativity scenes any more or that the ACLU has declared another biblical diorama to be an infringement of someone's constitutional rights.

So before I move forward, let me be clear. I am all for keeping Christ in Christmas. However, the fact that our Lord and Savior is being "kicked to the curb" by our culture, may not be such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. Here's why I think this is true.

Throughout history, the church has blossomed in the face of persecution. It was the persecution of the Jewish religious leaders that caused the church to spread like wildfire from its infancy. And despite the efforts of Nero and several of his successors for the next couple hundred years, it continued to grow in light of an increasing toll of untimely Christian deaths. In modern times, the church in China is really growing despite persecution from opponents both inside and outside the government.

I do not intend to make the leap to say that our subversive lull into saying "Happy Holidays" is in any manner similar to, reminiscent, or comparable to any persecution that has happened to any Christian individual or group throughout history. In the grand scheme of things, modern American Christians have got it pretty good. However, time and time again throughout history, when people intentionally (or even unintentionally) direct themselves away from the worship of God through Jesus Christ, there will be a pocket of believers who will be diligent in their faith and will be adamant about keeping their traditions alive. But in order for that to happen, several things must be true.

1. Christians must be motivated by love of others rather than hatred of government, non-religious propaganda, and all things that don't specifically mention Jesus. A picket line may be a great way to get higher wages, but it's probably not going to lead anyone to putting their faith in Christ.
2. Christians need to embrace all of the good in the Christmas season. Despite the "credit cards gone wild", this is a very benevolent time of year. We must remember that God is often glorified even when things don't have his name on them.
3. Christians must not throw the baby out with the bath water. In our quest to be counter-cultural, let's do so in a way that holds on to the good traditions we have at this time of year.

So what does the future hold? If I'm still alive in 50 years at the Christmas of 2060 (at the ripe old age of 84), what will Christmas in America be like? Will I be riding up to a family gathering in a traditional car only to park next to someone else's flying car (remember when we all thought we'd have those by now)? Will there still be Christmas decorations on the houses? Will people still put nativity scenes in their yards? I don't know, but I hope so. But as long as our culture continues to move away from the worship of Christ at Christmas, we have an opportunity to do something different. I hope we make the most of it.

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