There’s been a lot of talk recently among Christians about Christmas being under attack. Of course, the usual monologue about keeping Christ in Christmas and Christmas losing its meaning abounds plenty as well. This got me wondering whether Christmas was, in fact, under attack—and if so, who is attacking it? As a Christian myself, I also wonder what keeping Christ in Christmas means, as well as what the true meaning of Christmas is.
That’s a lot to ponder, for sure, but I wonder how much thought has been given to it, especially among Christians. For example, I wonder how many Christians have stopped to think that if Christmas is under attack or losing its meaning, whether we Christians might be the culprit, or at least complicit in the crime.
I sometimes wonder what Christians can mean—or even what they expect—when they say “keep Christ in Christmas.” The term “Christ” has sadly become a corporate icon for the religious right, serving largely as a trademark or branding symbol for a political agenda that isn’t widely perceived as particularly noble or charitable. “Christian” has become synonymous with anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiment, defunding social programs that benefit the sick and poor, and so on. I just wonder why anyone would want these attitudes, or the person who supposedly represents them, to be a part of their holiday celebration.
I propose that Christians have been guilty of losing sight of who Jesus was and what he stood for, and in turn have represented him publicly to be someone he’s not. It well may be our perversion of Jesus and his values that is at the heart of the anti-Christian sentiment in America and the attempt to remove those values from public holidays–if, in fact, that is what’s happening. We may be our own worst enemy.
If the meaning of Christmas is in any way connected to Jesus, then it should be a direct reflection of Jesus and what he meant to humanity. Jesus was all about giving of himself to others. He was the perfect model of love, graciousness, and forgiveness. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He never condemned the woman caught in adultery, or the Samaritan woman who had 5 husbands and was living with a man she wasn’t married to. When they nailed him to the cross, he looked at the soldiers and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Maybe if we want to restore the meaning of Christmas we could see widespread Christian fundraising events to feed the hungry, house the homeless, give relief to the poor, the elderly, the sick, the shut-ins, the disabled. Maybe we’d see Christian businesses forgiving debts or offering payment relief to those who are facing financial crisis. Maybe we’d see multi-million dollar businesses like Chic-Fil-A offering free meals to the poor and homeless, or using their massive profits to build homeless shelters or food banks. Maybe we’d see Christians—at least during the Christmas season—offer messages of love and graciousness to Muslims, Jews and Atheists who don’t share the appreciation of the religious significance of the Christmas season.
And if we are really serious about restoring the meaning of Christmas long-term, maybe we’d see Christians getting really serious about re-branding Christianity and making it more about “the least of these my brothers”–making their political agenda more about standing up for the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the disenfranchised. Maybe they would work harder at making the name “Christian” synonymous with love, compassion, grace, and mercy; extending hands and words of friendship to those who don’t yet share their faith.
Until we become the sort of Christians that accurately reflect who Jesus was, I don’t think we can point the finger at the unchristian segment of society and accuse them of attacking our faith. For many Christians, unfortunately, tossing a few loose coins in the Salvation Army bucket on the way out of the store with their hams and turkeys, will be the closest they ever get to the true meaning of Christmas. Unless and until we change who we are and what we stand for, the real Jesus is lost to the world anyway.