My daily walk to work takes me through the heart of my hometown and I enjoy keeping up on the changes in the shop windows throughout the year. This year, I noticed the first Christmas display a few weeks before Halloween.
As the Christmas celebration has changed, from a religious holy day celebrating Christ’s birth, into an almost three-month long Winter Holiday Season, awareness of the reason for the season has become steadily more diluted.
This is understandable. For even the most devout person, it is easier to concentrate on the origins and meanings of a sacred event for a day or two than to maintain that focus for a matter of weeks or months. Inevitably, the pervasive culture will begin to distract from the heart of the observance and pull our focus onto the trappings of the celebration, instead.
Is it any wonder that many of us, Christians as well as non-believers, meet the long-awaited arrival of Christmas Day with a sigh of relief, rather than reverent awe for the miraculous historical event being celebrated?
Some believers get all worked up trying to fight this secular co-opting of one of the Church’s most sacred days. They respond to a greeting of, “happy holidays,” with a snarled, “Merry Christmas!” and flinch at each mention of the holiday tree. Their seasonal goal is to “put Christ back in Christmas.”
I am afraid this is not only a losing battle, but it flies in the face of the true holy day spirit of “Peace on Earth” and good will to our fellow man.
I would like to suggest the Church might take a different tack this year.
Let’s let the world celebrate a winter holiday season commemorating snowmen, treats and displays of sentimental nostalgia. We can even join in the fun of decorations, gingerbread men and annual viewings of our favorite seasonal films. These activities take nothing away from the miraculous event which precipitated it all, even though many who celebrate this way consider the Santa Claus and Christ roles to feature equally in the festivities.
Why not let the world have their happy holidays, while believers, such as you and I, keep Christmas…in our churches, our families and our hearts?