Last Thursday I got off work early to go pick out a real tree for Christmas. Lucas picked a superb tree that is now fragrancing our living room with the delightful smell of Christmas. We spent the evening decorating the tree, listening to our favorite Christmas album, and enjoying some good family time. I let Lucas pick out a Christmas movie from the RedBox to watch that night. He first saw a Barney movie. I said no. Then he moved on to a Thomas the Train Christmas video. It was 3 or 4 episodes all centered around the "Winter Holiday."
My wife and I were amused at all the trappings of Christmas in the shows - snow, trees, lights, gifts, Santa, etc. - but that they avoided using the word "Christmas." Everything was "Winter Holiday Tree" or "Winter Holiday Carolers" or "Winter Holiday Lights." It made me think about the fuss that some Christians have put up in our own society (the video was British) when the greeters at Wal-Mart and administrators as local schools were asked to say, "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" so as not to offend those who do not associate with the Christian connotations of the season. I am sure you have heard the many retorts: "Jesus is the reason for the season" and "Don't take Christ out of Christmas." (We put 'Xmas' on our church's sign once and got an angry call. We tried to explain that X is the Greek symbol for the first letter in Christ's name and it is an abbreviation that includes Him. The man was not convinced.)
For what it is worth I am glad to see the semantic change occur. I am glad that our public spaces are recognizing that there are people of other faiths (or no faith at all) gathered there. Not that I think you have to stop saying "Christmas" to do that, but at least this means that we are aware that we are living in a radically diverse country. And respecting that is extremely important - especially for Jesus followers - even if it means some of those trappings of public life have to change and I feel a little out of place. Beyond this reason, though, there is another why I would be fine with "Christmas" being taken out of the stores, schools, movies, and videos:
What we are fighting to call Christmas, to keep Christ in, has nothing to do with Christ.
Exhibit A: Americans spend 450 billions dollars every year on Christmas.
This has nothing to do with the coming of God in human flesh. This has nothing to do with the radical mission of God that required His Son to become a baby born in a feeding trough.
I think it is more honest to call Christmas a "Winter Holiday" when we celebrate it the way that we do.
Why do we get upset when people take the Christian title away but we are compliant in the rituals that have taken the Christian content away? If we are going to get upset and launch a campaign, let's fight to make the season that remembers birth of Jesus a time when we participate in the mission that His birth inaugurated. (Which would be more like giving money away to the poor rather than spending it on ourselves.) And if we do fight, let's not make it an us against the secular culture, liberal media, etc. thing. Lets make it a fight within our own hearts. Let's be bothered by ourselves for bearing Jesus' name and then celebrating His poverty with our own over consumption and shameless luxury.
Sorry, I really hadn't intended that to have such an edge to it. That just represents how hard I am wrestling with myself over this. I want my own life to reject the religion of consumption so that I am free to participate in the conspiracy of advent. I have to read Mary's Song in Luke 1 often so I can remember how Christmas was meant to subvert how the world works, which means I can't join the world in the world's ways and call it Christmas.
If you want an example of a different way of approaching this season, check out: