Knowing Christmas means acting ChristmasPublished 10:57am Monday, December 17, 2012
I know what Christmas is, and I will observe and celebrate Christmas as what I know Christmas to be. During December, for many years now, I have written here about Christmas. As will be so on Christmas Eve, these have largely been positive recognitions of its meaning and purpose intended to encourage appropriate and productive observances. Occasionally, they were negative screeds about misunderstandings, misuse, and even slandering of the holy day. These, in turn, were intended to discourage such nonsense.
I have been — and continue to be — concerned that Christians do not flaunt their observances or otherwise irritate or offend those who celebrate differently — or do not celebrate at all. I am also concerned, increasingly with each year, that those who have no religious or spiritual sense of the holy day and see it merely as just another holiday do not by a radical mood of political correctness deny the right of Christians to obverse its religious significance — or intimidate them into embarrassment.
However I have written, I have never used the clique “the real meaning of Christmas.” This thoughtless expression is grammatically redundant and logically tautologous. There is only the meaning of Christmas or no meaning of Christmas. The word is self-defining, i.e., Christ mass.
It would be to celebrate a birthday with no knowledge of or interest in someone’s day of birth. It is the birthday anniversary (however uncertain the specific date) of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God come in human flesh—the God-man.
Nor do I use the equally senseless (however earnest) expression, “Put Christ back into Christmas.” He is in Christmas, or whatever might be left just is not Christmas. When Christ is taken out of Christmas, Christmas has been eliminated. There isn’t even a mass remaining.
Many Christians are at least irritated when someone refers to “the holidays” or wishes them “Happy Holidays.” When this happens, we can recognize they have lost the concept of Christmas and that referring to “the holidays” is, perhaps, more honest. If they don’t mean Christmas, do we want to force them to use the word meaninglessly and flippantly?
Even we who know what Christmas is and intend to be serious about it, sometimes are careless with this greeting. It should not be said in the same tone as “Happy Holidays.” Is this not taking the Lord’s name in vain? If we wish someone Merry Christmas, we ought to mean Christmas and say it convincingly.
Some who complain about the commercialization of Christmas were standing in line on Black Friday. They spend money lavishly and give gifts ostentatiously as well as receiving them greedily. They decorate their houses with Santas and rain deer, with barely a hint of the Advent. They play “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” on their iPods more than “Silent Night.”
I can recognize nothing necessarily inappropriate with winter themes and playful myths as Santa at this time of year, even by most devote Christian believers. After all, it is winter and Santa is a game the kids understand better than we think.
Let others celebrate the days as they wish. If Jewish people wish to focus on Hanukkah as a reasonable substitute for Christmas (although its significance, which is indeed considerable, has no relation to the Advent), respect and encourage them. Would we want them to be dishonestly Christmas-like when they do not believe Jesus was born as Messiah?
So, too, is there not something disturbingly disingenuous for atheists or just secular people to put on a show of religion at Christmas?
If we Christians live the meaning of Christmas and demonstrate by our words, actions, and attitude that we worship the Child born and the Son given, we allow our neighbors to wish us a Merry Christmas as we have shown Christmas to them.
To be overly defensive about commercial or other secular attitudes at this time might betray we ourselves do not have a firm grasp of the meaning of Christmas. It doesn’t seem quite the Christmas spirit for someone to blow his top because a well meaning (even if naive or thoughtless) person wishes him Happy Holidays.
We who know the meaning of Christmas ought to act as we do.