Arguing Over Christmas

As a teen and young adult, I can remember the annual round of articles in Sunday School papers (remember them - those 4-8 page mini magazines that we got for attending Sunday School each week). It seemed that each year they ran an article that championed people who didn't celebrate Christmas for their family, but gave all of their time, efforts and gifts to others. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but does everyone have to do that?

In my first pastorate there was an older couple whose large family of grown children had never experienced Christmas. Instead of the tree, gifts, songs of the season, etc., Mom and Dad had opted to "celebrate Christmas in our hearts all year long." None of the kids, to my knowledge were believers, and I always wondered if this somewhat dour approach to Christian faith pushed them in the wrong direction. I'm not saying that not getting presents kept them from Christ, but you wonder about the long-term impact of their choice.

On the other side you have those who go out and go nuts. There are some kids who are getting Xboxes, iPods, new computers, AND a bunch of other stuff. Mom and Dad will be in hock until the next ice age, but the kids will have a wow day.

You are no doubt aware of the current fuss over how the bad liberals are trying to take away Christmas. Christians are supposed to boycott Target and other stores, do battle with townships over nativity scenes, and heck, we're even supposed to be ticked off at the President for not sending Christmas Cards but sending Happy Holiday cards instead. I just read a headline on MSN about this. Are we serious. The President betrayed us? Who do we think we are?

To me, the silliness of the thing with the merchants is that we want them to recognize Christmas by calling their sales pitches and enticements to excess CHRISTMAS SALES. Yup. Put that word back in the circulars and thousands will be swept into the kingdom.

I hate the encroaching secularism, but I'd rather have that than put a false face on what really exists. What bothers me more than the secularism, though, are fellow Christians. I'm oh-so-tired of the "reclaim America and give me my rights" rhetoric. You can troop the founding fathers out dressed in elf suits to sing Hark The Herald Angels Sing until the cows come home, and that doesn't make us a Christian nation. Never has. Never will.

Frankly, I think that the political evangelical watchdogs want more than "our rights." My deep-seated suspicion is that they not only want a secular society to affirm our rights, they want that same society to affirm that they (the society) are actually better off with us around. In other words, don't just accept that we are here. Be glad! Don't just tolerate us. Like us!! We're good for you!

Someone in our church asked me what I thought about this whole thing. "What will we do if they take Christmas away?" Here's my answer: I guess we'll have to be Christians anyway.

The curmudgeons aren't going to spoil Christmas for me. Neither are the "I'll be broke until July" yuppies. And this year, neither are the evangelicals. I'm going to use the season to listen to music that uplifts the Savior. I'm going to spend time with friends and family, and enjoy their company. I'm going to try to lead our people to contemplate again the wonder that God became man to die for us and as us. I'm going to spend some money to care for the needs of my family (Christmas is a good time to replenish what has worn out) and some of their wishes too. And along the way I'm going to pray that more and more, with each succeeding secularizing year, that there is such a contrast between the way the pagans deal with this holiday and the way God's children do, that people may wonder if they are missing something. And I also hope that when that time comes, that we we'll be known more for the answer we give about the Savior than we are for our ability to picket, protest and petition.

So Merry Christmas. And Happy Holidays too.

8 comments:

Malcolm said...

Peter,

Your paragraphs speaking of the "creeping secularization" and "evangelical watchdogs" are, in my opinion, dead on.

I find it most frustrating that many/most Christians are surprised, even shocked, that the world would be against things Christian. Did Jesus not tell us clearly that the world hates him and will also hate us?

What I find appaling, are the recent reports of churches not holding services on Christmas Sunday morning. Granted, the church I serve will be modifying our services on that day going from two to one. but to drop them totally, and on top of that to give a reason that Chritmas is mostly secular anyway and not celebrated as a holy day is pathetic. What message does this send to the world from the Christian community when there is an acquiescence to the continuing secularization of all things religious. Let's at least try to call our folks to some kind of commitment.

This is a well stated post. Appreciate your thoughts, and will be joining you in a celebration of both the holiday and Holy Day.

Peter Bogert said...

Thanks, Malcolm. I really do think that there is a sense of entitlement that some evangelicals think that they have.

But Jesus did tell us differently, as you said!

Bill said...

Well said, Peter

Kristen said...

Hear, hear!! Excellent!

I agree whole-heartedly.

p4p said...

When we were young(and not bombarded by the material as much as kids today)my family always brougth out the advent wreathe.We lit the candles and prayed.Advent was always a time of preperation for Christmas so the focus was always Christ centered.
It is a memory i cherish now.In our secular culture the focus on Christ of Advent helps keep the perspective where it ought to be.

Peter Bogert said...

Hi, Kristen! Thanks for dropping by. Hope you can still get that shredded wheat in Georgia!

P4P - neat tradition

Totem to Temple said...

Thanks for this excellent article. Iread that first paragraph and that resonated something inside of me about those mini magazines and the 'guilt' they tried to place on people for receiving nice gifts at Christmas time and for not giving all their time, money, and efforts to others.


You called it correctly and right down the middle. Great article and insights

Chris Roberts said...

I could say a lot more than just "Great post!" but I won't. Consider it my Christmas present. :)