“The War on Christmas,” for those who are not aware, is the practice of secularizing greetings around Christmastime to “Happy Holidays” and avoiding any references to the religious aspects of the holiday. Some Christians have taken to the airwaves to decry these practices as dishonest at best (we all know it’s Christmas they’re talking about) and discrimination at worst. We wring our hands and worry that one of the two most sacred days in the year is somehow in danger.
But there has been another war on Christmas going on. Is Christmas about Santa Claus or Jesus? “Santa Baby” or the baby in the manger? Those in the evangelical Christian community are familiar with the refrain “Keep Christ in Christmas.” For some, this means that truly devout Christians should not sing about Jolly Old Saint Nick, reindeer, elves and such. To do so would be to dilute the pure, original purpose for the festive season.
I once had a friend tell me his conspiracy theories about how Santa Claus was basically invented by Coca-Cola to sell more sugary drinks. And of course he pointed out that when you switch some letters around, “Santa” becomes “Satan.”
This aversion to secular Christmas shows a misunderstanding of the holiday. As with Easter and the spring equinox, Christmas is a religious holiday tacked on to an existing secular celebration of the winter solstice. We know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. We know that the Yuletide season existed without nativity scenes and Christmas carols.
Christmas is about bringing the message of hope to the biggest party we could find. It makes little sense to throw cold water all over that party when it’s the moment when Jesus is already getting the most airtime by far of any moment in the year. Millions of people will hear the good news of Jesus on the radio in the mall, in a Charlie Brown special on television, and at community Christmas celebrations.
Jesus knew how to bring something supernatural to a party. When he showed up at a wedding party, he performed a famous miracle of turning water into wine. The party wasn’t about him, but nobody remembers whose wedding that was today. They remember that he made the party even better. That’s what he continues to do today—he makes a festive season even better. So if you want to see more Christ in Christmas, then bring him to the party! Put up a nativity scene, sing the Christmas carols that celebrate Christ’s birth, and join in the festivities with your friends and neighbours.
So to our community I say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”