Merry Whatever, Again

As you know, the Christmas season is in full swing. For many, it’s become a holiday so tepid that even the word “Christmas” is avoided. “Merry Whatever,” I guess.

Last year, as the Christmas — I mean “holiday” — season began, one department store decided not to sell Christmas trees. Instead, they called them “holiday trees.” Another store took all references to Christmas out of their advertisements, and told its employees not to say “Merry Christmas” to customers.

Public pressure (i.e., the threat of lost revenue) led these corporations to relent. But it didn’t stop a public school in another state from including in its “winter program” the famous and well-loved song, “Cold is the Night.” (It sounds suspiciously similar to “Silent Night” — but we don’t want to confuse the children.)

How the simple story of Jesus’ birth can be so controversial is a mystery to me. I suppose Christians bring it on themselves by trying to celebrate Christ and capitalism on the same day.

Whether Jesus gets a kick out our massive celebrations or not, I don’t know. He didn’t tell us to remember his birth, but rather his death, resurrection, and return. And I’m quite convinced our massive materialistic mayhem looks more to him like Money-worship than Christ-worship.

Maybe Jesus would just as soon be left out of the whole thing….

Speaking for myself, I love the Christmas season despite its faults. I love the carols played in the marketplace. I love the good cheer spread around to strangers and friends. I love the idea of family celebrations.

Mostly though, I marvel at the reality of the Incarnation (God living in human skin). As I’ve written before, the uniqueness of Christianity among other religious/philosophic points of view is found in the idea the God is personal as well as powerful, and that this was demonstrated when God entered human history at a specific point in time through the person of Jesus Christ.

You see, Christians don’t just celebrate a religious ideal, they celebrate a real person. They don’t wish for a vague “peace on earth,” but worship a specific “Prince of Peace.” For Christianity is not merely a creed to affirm, a club to join, or a code to follow. Any religion or philosophy offers these things. What Christianity offers is absolutely unique: a Christ to worship.

To me, that’s something worth celebrating. The Magi did it first: having followed the star in the east, “they fell down and worshiped him.”

Consider the irony: When Jesus was born, God allowed astrology, an art expressly forbidden in Scripture, to announce Christ’s birth to pagan philosophers.

On second thought, maybe God is less offended by the materialism of the season than I am. Apparently, whatever helps point people to Jesus is just fine by him. And so it is with me.

Merry Christmas!