Around this time every year, some Christians get heated about the “War on Christmas.” Political organizations churn out sharply worded press releases about a perceived attempt by the left to strip Christ out of Christmas. Bill O’Reilly will highlight one story every night, something like the town council in Podunk, USA that removed a cross from a water tower. The Drudge Report will take the most obscure case of Christmas secularizing and highlight as if its a dangerous national epidemic. And of course, the American Family Association will create its “Naughty and Nice” list of retailers who don’t explicitly mention the story of Christmas in their promotions, forgetting the irony of using Santa Claus to beat up retailers who don’t articulate the mystery of the Incarnation with their 40% off sweater sales.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a cultural push back against Christianity. I realize gospel-centered Christianity is increasingly becoming marginalized. I get that. But when it comes to Christmas, I think most of the outrage expressed by Christians is misguided at best and manufactured at worst. Especially when Christians in places like Sudan and China are beaten, separated from their families, and often killed for expressing the name of Christ. We cry foul because the tired and overworked greeter at Target doesn’t say “Merry Christmas”?
I think this outrage is manufactured in that it gives activist organizations a bit of relevance during a time of year when most of the world shifts their eyes away from partisan politics. It preys on fear, fear that somehow our traditions and all that we hold dear is being snatched away. It’s a crass way to inject politics into every area of life, as if everything is explained by the bogeymen of left and right. Frankly, I think it’s a great fundraising tool. Help us stop the War on Christmas, contribute $5, $10, $25 dollars to this urgent cause!
Even if there is some truth to the War on Christmas–and there might be–I wonder if force is the best way to advance the real meaning of this holiday? Is a stern rebuke to the Walmart cashier the best presentation of God in the flesh? Are we so fragile in our faith that we need the GAP to articulate the Christ-centeredness of the holiday?
When you read the gospel accounts of the Incarnation, you find that it is way above the tired political debates of today. Jesus himself said that the Kingdom wouldn’t advance by force. He didn’t come so that his followers could pursue power, so that Christianity would be the dominant, powerful force in society. So that everyone would like us and affirm our holiday.
The story of Christmas is about gospel joy. The angelic choir rang perfect melodies through the heavens, worshipping in awe at the mystery and glory of God coming to earth in human form, of the Son born to a virgin in a lowly cattle trough.
And we, who were dead in sins and have now been transformed by the regenerating power of Jesus bear this joy of Christmas. So the best declaration of the gospel on this holiday is not angry shouting about perceived slights. It’s not a persistent whining about the end of civilization. Its a heart of overflowing joy at the Savior’s birth.
Imagine if we stopped sending angry emails and press releases about “naughty and nice” retailers and instead exuded the joy of the season? Consider this: even in a world ravaged by sin, in a country increasingly given to false ideologies and the worship of plastic gods, we stop and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Like it or not, December 25th is the one time of year when the world peers in on Luke’s narrative about the baby in the manger. This is when the entire world is filled with with gospel truth, when Joy to the World and the First Noel and Silent Night breathe the wonder of the Incarnation into the darkest places in our culture.
So those of us who’ve been the object of Jesus’ love, whose hearts have been transformed by Christ, let us be the most joyous members of the human race when the calendar flips to December. Imagine what the culture would look like if every Christian stopped complaining about war on their holiday, stopped whining about commercialism and stress and bursted forth with joy?
Maybe, just maybe, the tired retail workers at the checkout line would say “Merry Christmas,” not because cranky Christians demanded it, but because the joy of our hearts at this season so overflowed that the gospel spilled over.
The real war on Christmas isn’t being fought on Madison Avenue or in the White House or on Wall Street. It’s being fought every day in the hearts of believers who can choose to either revel in the miracle of the Incarnation or allow themselves to be slaves of the enemy who seeks to rob God’s people of their joy.
This holiday is our holiday. We get an entire month to rejoice at the unfolding of God’s salvation plan. So, let’s go forth this Christmas, with generosity towards those we love, charity toward those who don’t celebrate as they ought, and gospel gladness in a culture that desperately needs the good news.