There’s a lot I love about this season, about Advent and Christmas, in the preparation, and waiting, and some of the most interesting and provocative dimensions of faith and the biblical narrative. It’s not easy being a clergyperson at this busy time of year, especially when I also have a flurry of family December birthdays, but Advent and Christmas draw me in, offering an exhilarating mix of comfort and wonder, of fond memories and deep, unanswerable questions.
Yet, each year it seems that this season because more fraught for me, and increasingly a season of anger and frustration. I am dismayed by what’s happened to Christmas. On the one hand, there’s the secular takeover of one of Christianity’s most important of holy days, where Christmas seems only about Santa, gifts, and decorations without the “Christ” part of it anywhere. And, on the other hand, the almost militant “Merry Christmas” shoved down the throat, with the refrain of the “War on Christmas.” I am uncomfortable with the silly ways that Fox News has exploited this concept. Who cares that the cups I get at Starbucks during this season are red and lacking in the actual words, “Merry Christmas”?
About a month ago, the local newspaper included a story about a local group’s preparations for its “Magical Christmas” show that was to take place in Hallowell, where the church I serve, Old South, is located. The “Magical Christmas” show featured giant hanging snowflakes, holiday lights, and . . . female impersonators. Where’s Christmas in that?
I have no problem whatsoever with men dressing up as women, or giant hanging snowflakes, but the “Magical Christmas” show appeared to have nothing to do with actual Christmas, the day on which we Christians observe the birth of our Savior.
I have grown weary of what’s happened to Christmas. Where Fox News wants to force everyone to say “Merry Christmas,” I’ve found that I prefer NOT to hear “Merry Christmas” unless the person who’s saying it actually means it or knows that it means something to me. I’d prefer Christmas be left for Christians. The rest can celebrate the winter solstice or perhaps a happy Santa day, or something like that.
Let Christians have Christmas. And, Christians: stop forcing the Merry Christmases. I think you’re only making it worse.
Christmas is indeed one of the holiest of days, and it should be kept that way, focused on the belief that God came close, came to share in our humanity, came in such a way as to need the care and nurture of human parents, and offered wonder and hope to lowly shepherds as well as strange wise people from afar who presented extravagant gifts.
I have no idea if the components of the ancient story (stories, really) actually happened, but the story still lifts up a Savior who certainly made a point of turning expectations inside out, and upside down. There’s a lot to ponder and contemplate, even for those of us who know this story so well—or think we do. It would be nice, then, not to be distracted by “Christmas” events that have nothing to do with Christmas or by the superficial and ridiculous “war” that seems to think that “Merry Christmas” is all that we need to acknowledge Christ. Christmas deserves more respect than that, from Christians and non-Christians alike.