As we approach the first Sunday of Advent, I’d like to write about something that has gotten press every year since I was ordained in 1998 (I’m sure it was going on before then, but it was at that point that I began to notice it). Each and every year some secular institution take away some historic Christmas celebration and make it some innocuous “holiday” celebration instead. And Christians will get upset, see it as an aggressive attack on our faith, and especially be incensed that this would occur on what many consider to be the holiest day of the year (which really is Easter for Christians, not Christmas, but I digress and that is for a different blog entry).
You may think as a pastor that I’d be ready to weigh into this fight on the side of folks who want to sing Christmas carols in their public schools, put nativity scenes in pubic parks, and have Bibles publicly displayed in the court houses. You may think it but you’d be wrong.
Your next thought might logically be that I am someone who therefore sees no ‘war on Christmas’ and thinks this is just some paranoia in the minds of very conservative Christians who over exaggerate what is happening in our schools, parks, and court houses. You may think that, but you’d be wrong.
You see, I do believe there is a war on Christmas going on. I just disagree where it is actually happening. What if the changes in secular and government institutions aren’t where the battle is really fought? Just because we celebrated Christmas in secular and public venues in the past, doesn’t mean that we should have. We do live in a pluralistic nation where separating church from state has largely been a blessing to the church rather than a curse (but that again is a topic for another blog entry).
Nevertheless, there is a real fight going on over Christmas and this is one that matters for all Christians. The real fight is whether Christians will actually make Christmas about Jesus rathern than mainly about buying into the secular culture’s Christmas (which is absolutely alive and well). Will Christmas be about Jesus, celebrating his birth, and living in the way he taught us to live? Or will Christmas largely be about consumerism, overindulgence, shopping, parties, meals, and exchanging an incredible number of gifts? Will we celebrate Advent and Christmas? Or will we treat Thanksgiving and Advent like Christmas and end Christmas two hours after we open presents underneath the tree? Will anyone less fortunate be blessed by us this Christmas season or is it 99% of it about our friends and families alone? Will our children’s understanding deepen on the way Jesus taught us to live? Will we read from the Bible on Christmas? Will we pray together, not only in church, but also in our homes? Will we not buy a bunch of stuff we (or anyone else really) needs? Those are just a few of the very real battles upcoming in the “War on Christmas.” But will we even recognize it?
The outcome of the War on Christmas largely rests, not in public schools, parks, or court rooms but instead inside of Christian homes and hearts.
Until next time,