‘Tis the season to decry “season’s greetings,” “xmas,” and anything thing else that takes Christ out of Christmas. The battle lines in the seasonal culture war are clearly – if somewhat conspiratorially – drawn between those who are simply celebrating a cultural holiday and those who figuratively want to include Immanuel as an ornament next to their elves, sleighs, and that 2nd grade picture of Emily on red construction paper.
The celebration, in its current practice, is about lights on the gutters and shrubs and a focal-point Christmas tree that bears family memories in various ornaments collected over the years. It’s about office parties, cookies, fudge, and eggnog, which cumulatively inspire us to start fitness programs in January. And, of course, it’s about nerf guns, dolls, and iPads. For background music we have I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, and Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. (A few of us have B.B. King’s Merry Christmas Baby.) It may not be a deep celebration, but it’s fun if you don’t expect too much from it.
The task of the ever-earnest Christmas redeemer is to put the “the Christ” into this winter celebration. That might involve pointedly saying “Merry Christmas to a more generic well-wisher. It might involve fighting for a creche in the public square. Maybe you display one of those ceramics with Santa kneeling before the cradle. Also, on Christmas day you can make the kids wait for their presents while you read Luke 2 and then make them wait for Christmas dinner during that extra-long prayer about not only the food but the plan of redemption. And what’s the result of all that? Eh, it’s pretty much like putting a Gideon’s booth between the roller coaster and merry-go-round and calling it a Christian carnival.
One can only hope for such a mundane result, because it could be worse. Our way of celebrating could actually make the kids think there is some kind of connection between godliness and gaudiness. They might connect The Faith with consumer excess. They might internally syncretize Christ and our cultural celebration with unknown belief-results.
All in all, putting Christ into Christmas is an uphill battle for dubious rewards. If we haven’t been commanded to do it, we’re free to think on whether we should. You know, the kids might actually pay more attention to Luke 2 some time when they’re not overdosed on fudge and looking at the Christmas tree behind your back. And, if you lay down your culture war weaponry, you can with clear conscience sing along to whatever music gives you that winter holiday feeling. You wouldn’t be betraying anyone if you did.