I was at Capitol Grille being treated to lunch by a dear friend last Friday. He’d just paid the check, and our waiter was saying thanks. “You two gentlemen have a merry…um…Happy Holidays”. His eyes darted to check our faces.
“Merry Christmas to you too, my friend,” I said as I took his hand and shook it firmly. My smile told him he was ok, though my heart was grieved for the position he’s been put in.
As the dad of an almost three-year old, I get to watch a lot of the Disney Junior channel. My little Ellie loves the new Latino princess, Elena of Avalor. Elena just had a Christmas special showcasing the aspects of a Latino Christmas celebration, which we were excited about since our adopted daughter is Latino. Considering how Catholicism is interwoven into Latino culture, I was fascinated to watch candles lit, Christmas trees celebrated, but not a single mention or symbol of the Nativity in the entire special.
When did ignoring the history and culture of an entire race of people become “culturally sensitive”? Sorry, that’s not being tolerant. That’s just plain inaccurate.
Yes, Virginia. There is a war on Christmas. Always has been, always will be.
Disagree if you like, but history tells us we’re smart to keep a watchful eye. The very first Christmas brought the slaughter of hundreds of baby boys, done as a last-ditch effort of a dying king to destroy the newborn King of the Jews. Darkness will always try to extinguish the light in its purest and most innocent form. You know, like with abortion (I’ll just leave that there).
Not convinced? Fast forward to Christmas 2015…
A school system in Kentucky decides to do a live-action version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for an elementary school production. Enter the usual suspects: one outraged parent over his child participating in the one scene where Linus recites chapter two from the Gospel of Luke. Charlie Brown had just asked if anybody knows the real meaning of Christmas, so Linus obliges by reciting the nativity narrative verbatim.
With lawsuits threatened, the school backs down. The young man playing Linus is instructed to stop and stand silently at that section of the production. It seems the Christmas Grinches have won yet again. But then just like the happy Who’s from Whoville, a sound begins to waft through the auditorium. Someone in the audience begins reciting the Luke passage, then another joins in , and then another. Soon the whole room is reciting along and eventually erupts in celebration!
Silly darkness. You can never put out the light.
In John’s unique, cosmic account of the same nativity story, the apostle remarks, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it” (John 1:5) That’s the cocky confidence some of my knee-jerking Christian friends need to understand. Grinches will always seek to steal Christmas and extinguish the light, but they’re guaranteed certain failure. It’s simply not possible.
Oppressive regimes may outlaw that light. Lawyers may threaten legal action, and warn of financial ruin unless you hide it. Keep it out of the public square. Lock it away in your church buildings…in other words, “hide it under a bushel”.
“Worship the light in secret,” they’ll say, “and keep it to yourselves”.
Keep those nativity scenes off public property and on your own lawns…at least, until they pass ordinances and neighborhood association laws forbidding them there as well. Sing only the secular Christmas songs in the schools and malls. Just be sure to keep all the carols and oratorios about the baby in the manger to yourselves (which by the way will deprive them of some of the greatest music ever written by the masters).
Turn a blind eye to the impact Christianity has had on our whole culture, on our laws, on our sense of ethics and fairness and the value of human life. You know, like “love your neighbor”, “feed the poor”, “be a good Samaritan”, and “do unto others as you’d have them do to you”…
They’ll pretend they came up with all those glorious elements of Western Civilization on their own, forgetting that they all poured forth from that manger 2000 years ago.
But when they’ve done their worst, when Christmas seems to have been snuffed out, when the wick wetted so thoroughly it could never light again, then suddenly…amazingly…you will see it begin to flicker miraculously yet again. They’ll never understand how puny their attempts are to shut out the light.
It’s like plucking out your own eyes, believing somehow you’ve really extinguished the sun.
Even when your boss demands you say “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas, he’s outsmarted himself. The word “holidays” comes from the concept of “holy days”. It marks the special days of the year set aside liturgically to remember the blessings of God in our lives. Those are the days we put aside secular diversions and focus on the truly sacred things in our lives – family, friends, and God.
So whether they say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, they still can’t help but point to the “elephant in the middle of the room” every December. Try to hide His Nativity with a couple of throw pillows all you want…He’ll still own that room!
While you’re at it, go ahead and try to smother that baby in the manger with all the darkness you can muster. Yet there will still be a star shining above Him to point the way: a star that, unlike the one on the top of your Christmas tree, will never come down.
We know from one Easter Sunday morning, you can even kill Him if you want: He will always rise again, kicking back the blankets of darkness off Him like just so many limp swaddling clothes.
Bring it on, Darkness! Just try and blot out the Son, just be careful you don’t get burned in the process. The Incarnation has occurred, God is with us, and Christ is triumphant.
Merry Christmas, indeed!