Dec. 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The ‘war on Christmas’ is by now a long-hallowed tradition in North America. Every year, starting in November, atheists and conservatives battle over nativity scenes and Christmas trees on public property. And we have the ‘naughty or nice’ lists, the boycotts, and letters targeting retailers who try to cash in on Christmas without acknowledging the reason for their annual windfall.
It’s a worthy battle and one that I’m happy to play some small part in as a pro-life, pro-family, and “pro-Christmas” journalist. But I think it’s important we recognize that what we have come to know as the ‘war on Christmas’ is really just a minor skirmish. The real “war on Christmas” is not, in fact, waged by the irreligious, but by principalities and powers. I would suggest, in fact, that the largest part in that war nowadays is played by Christians themselves.
They do it, not by opposing Christmas, but by celebrating it, intentionally or not, in a way that robs it of its meaning. The atheist campaign pales in comparison not only because they are still largely a fringe group (in Gallup’s 2012 poll only 14% of Americans had ‘no religion’, compared to 74% identifying as Christian), but because it’s always more effective to distort an ideal than to oppose it.
The pro-abortion movement knows this well. By twisting the notion of freedom, they’ve convinced two generations now to accept legalized baby-killing. Likewise, the best way to destroy Christmas isn’t by banning it from the public square, even though that strategy plays its part. The best way is to gut it and imbue it with a new meaning.
Essentially, Christians do that by divorcing Christmas from the Cross – when they want the peace, mercy, and love without the spiritual battle, justice, and hatred of sin.
The ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ slogan that we so often see this time of year on bumper stickers or billboards is a useful reminder. But its effect is largely muted by the fact that the target audience’s basic reaction is ‘duh’. People who celebrate Christmas know that they are celebrating the birth of Christ. They’re not challenged by the slogan because they fully agree with it, in their own way.
The problem is that Christ and His Gospel have been co-opted and distorted. The Cross has been edited out, and Christ has been re-envisioned according to modern sensibilities. In the public mind, the Lion of Judah has become a hippy sentimentalist; the Lamb of God a cuddly teddy bear. He’s nice; He doesn’t make great demands of us – except for the ones the culture does. Our path to heaven is laid wide by being a “good person,” in other words, by staying on the right side of the law and giving to charity now and then. One of the key challenges of proclaiming Christ in this culture we live in is that to get our message across we have to first break through these preconceived distortions.
This distortion of Christ is what allows even the most virulent opponent of the unborn child’s right to life to profess a belief in the Author of Life. It’s what creates the heinous situation that one can celebrate the Christ Child’s birth as the manifestation of God, while at the same time upholding his mother’s right to kill Him even the moment before.
The rigorous, believing Christian knows that Christ not only was born to die and rise again to welcome us into eternal life with Him, but that to follow Him into heaven we must first embrace His Cross. The fact is, though, that we cannot embrace Christ’s Cross without also embracing His humiliation and His poverty. And I think this is where even believing Christians can play an unwitting role in the war on Christmas.
Our culture, and I dare say even our Christian culture, has often lost the simplicity of Christmas, the poverty of Christmas. Something seems backwards when we celebrate God’s condescension to be born in a stable by spending many hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on gifts. I don’t begrudge the gift-giving tradition whatsoever, but I do condemn the consumerism that has engulfed our annual festivities. Christmas is most certainly a time for celebration, but we wreck the celebration by overindulgence.
My family was forced to embrace the “poverty” of Christmas this year in a simple way that forced us to rely on God’s providence and our community.
Our tradition is to delay buying our Christmas tree until the last week of Advent. We find it helps us embrace the season of Advent, and we use a spindly Jesse Tree in the lead-up to Christmas instead. This delay in buying a tree has never been a problem before because we lived near a city and there were always trees available right up until the end.
This year, though, we have moved to a small town in Northern Ontario and found to our disappointment that by the time we were looking for a tree they were gone from all the stores around us. Rather than relying on the store, we would have to step a little outside our comfort zone and use a bit of ingenuity. Fortunately, we have a wonderful Christian community here and we were able to visit some friends with a large acreage who helped us cut down a beautiful tree from their property.
Embracing simplicity is a scary thing when we’re used to doing things on our own, but it forces us to rely on God’s providence. When we do that, we find that He’ll open up new paths and show us unexpected joys. We should ponder that especially at this time of year, for it was through Mary’s self-renunciation, her “yes,” that God’s greatest and most unexpected of gifts came into the world.
We wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas, and God’s blessings on the New Year!
Patrick, Jenna, Noah, Isaiah, and Anna Craine