Christmas Without Christians

I’m not much of a fan of the “War on Christmas.”  In fact, I prefer “Happy Holidays” to “Merry Christmas” as I offer greetings around town, in recognition that there are many religious holidays that take place during this time of year and that I personally know quite a few people who do not celebrate Christmas.

At the same time, though, I find myself increasingly troubled by those who celebrate Christmas, but are clearly not Christian—those people who are happy to have a decorated tree and engulf their houses in green and red lights, but never go to church and don’t seem to have a clue about the origins of the holiday.  They know Santa, but not much else.

A few years ago, I was talking to a neighbor who found herself sharing stories about old family ornaments with her grandchildren.  Whenever she showed off an ornament that was more religious—a manger scene or an angel or star, for instance—her grandchildren (who were around nine or ten at the time) gave her a puzzled look.  They didn’t know anything about Christmas other than Santa and the tree with all of the gifts under it.

Is the secularization of Christmas okay?

Most Christians take for granted that most people know all about Christmas, even if they don’t go to church, or perhaps go only on Christmas Eve.  But, as we discover that an increasing number of adults, who never attended church as children, and continue to keep any official religion at a distance, how do we deal with Christmas?

What happens when Christmas becomes just a cultural celebration, more about Santa and less and less about the birth of Jesus?

Here in Maine, which is arguably the least churched state in the country (depending on what study you think is correct), the secularization of Christmas is clearly at hand.  Many would prefer to ignore this reality, but it seems evident to me.  But is there anything to do about it?

For some years now, I’ve sometimes tried to offer a disapproving comment – gently, of course—to my Jewish friends who have a tree and give gifts to their children on Christmas, in addition to observing Hanukah.   Should I also consider offering a disapproving comment—gently, of course—to my friends who celebrate Christmas, but wouldn’t think about going to church during the holiday season, and don’t even acknowledge in any way, shape, or form, that this holiday IS a religious holiday?

I’m thinking about it.   Perhaps I’ll give it a try and see what kind of response I get.  Could be interesting.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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1 Response to Christmas Without Christians

  1. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your article in the Morning Sentinel. Very well written, and right to the point. Thank you very much.
    Mary 🙂

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