Christmas is an interesting time of year. My job carries me to my company’s several mall locations and so it is difficult to not become jaded by the long hours, loaded parking lots, cheesy canned holiday music, and the crass commercialization of the holiday. Those aren’t sleigh bells, they’re cash registers. Now I’m not opposed to the giving of gifts and the parties and the general holiday cheer (though too often, it seems, people seem more afflicted with holiday stress and exhaustion). But, looking around, it certainly seems that, in America at least, that beyond swiping credit cards, this winter festival we sometimes (OK not so much anymore) call Christmas has more to do with family, lights, gifts, and warm fuzzies. By the way, I don’t necessarily think that any of those things are inherently bad.
So I’m amused at the rancor in some quarters over the fact that the word “Christmas” has been shoved under the rug. The phrase “Happy Holidays” is, to some, despicable and even oppressive. A “Holiday Tree?” Don’t even get them started. These challenges are to be met with defiance and boycotts. Now, to be honest, I also think the paranoid dismissal of the term “Christmas” is quite silly – everybody knows that’s what happens on December 25 and that’s what most people celebrate. Such a fact is treated like a new “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in secular America and, yes, it’s just silly.
But, Christian, what do you expect? A secular (pagan?) culture cannot possibly understand Christmas – the eyes of the heart have been blinded and darkened. (And do realize that this is not a Christian culture.) It can understand “Peace on Earth” to be a vague, feel-good sentiment about ending war; but it cannot understand it as the consequence of the incarnate Savior who conquers death and hell and wins peace for His Kingdom. It can enjoy a warm family gathering and the exchange of presents; but it cannot understand the hope of new life as a child adopted into the household of God. Only the Holy Spirit can bring insight into these things.
Of course, sometimes it seems that we Christians have forgotten some of these truths. So why do we yell at our lost culture for not using the correct terminology in their catalogs? When news comes that Target will say “Merry Christmas” after all, you may have won an inconsequential battle but be losing the war. It seems that the better course would be to, as we have opportunity, explain the mystery and meaning of the Incarnation to those who are perishing.