Happy Holidays. Sigh. This is the politically correct greeting for the season. It’s not cool to mention the X word.
Keep to Santa and the elves. Or better still, snowmen. Something safe. Even candy canes can get banned in certain public places (since Christians started using the red and white to represent the cleansing blood of Jesus and holiness.)
For a season of peace and goodwill, there is such an underlying spiritual battle going on.
At Sunday school last week, my friend taught the pre-K kids to respond to “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” To bring home the point we had a celebration with cake and sang Happy Birthday, Jesus.
This year, I bought a Hanukkah menorah and tried lighting candles. I felt it was more authentic than Christmas. Jesus observed this festival, I tried to explain. It celebrates God’s provision that the light in the temple burned miraculously for eight days when there was only enough olive oil to burn for one day.
My son shared this with a Jewish friend whose immediate response was: “That’s our tradition. You cannot take it from us!” In the end I abandoned the hopes of introducing this tradition in our home. I wanted it to glorify God. But it caused too much confusion. When a friend came in the middle of the week, I worried about lighting the candles concerned that it might be misconstrued that I embrace all religions.
For years, I have been ambivalent about observing Christmas. At first I rebelled against the pagan Yuletide trappings—the tree, log, holly, mistletoe. Today, websites offer Yuletide celebrations with songs like Hark the New Age Pagans Sing, and Glory to the Holly King, and songs about gods and goddesses. It offends me.
I struggle with the buying of presents, the consumerism and the commercialism that accompany Christmas. I confess, I am party to it but I hate the shopping, the rushing, the crowds, and the second guessing of who should get what. Believe me, with the stuff that we all are privileged to have, nobody needs to get anything. I suppose I should be glad we are all helping the economy.
This year, I heard that parents are willing to part with money for their children to send an email to Santa and get an email response from him. I cringe when parents talk about Santa. This tradition is so built on lies and deception.
It bothers me that we can all be wrapped up with such trivialities when there are soldiers fighting in Iraq and Christian Iraqis there who dare not attend Christmas service.
We should not be surprised that such a season is fraught with such battles. After all, Christmas day is really not the birthday of our Lord. It was created by the Roman church in the fourth century to Christianize a pagan custom. Could it be that such pagan forces are battling to have it back?
Christmas is more connected to Hanukkah than people are aware of. Referred to in John 10:22 as the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah celebrates the victory the Jews had taking back the temple after a three year battle which started when Antiochus desecrated the temple by erecting an idol of Zeus. On December 25, 168 BC, Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar observing it because it was the birthday of Zeus.
Rather than making Jesus the reason for the season, one part of me want to cry out to take Christ out of Christmas. Maybe it is better that way. Why not allow those of us who want to revel and indulge to just revel and indulge and leave Jesus out of it? Happy Shopping Season, maybe.
In fact, several years ago, I announced to my family that we will not have a tree or observe Christmas any more. Then we moved to China, where Christmas was beginning to potentially attract millions of devotees.
People just copied what we in the west have. There I saw a mother lead her little boy towards Santa and his deer, help him clasp his hands together and bow to this jolly guy in veneration. I did not know whether to laugh or cry.
And yet, I found it amazing to hear songs glorifying God like Joy to the World and O Holy Night in public places. Being politically correct had not caught on there. I also found such a curiosity about Santa and questions about whether he was god gave believers such an opportunity to share the Good News.
Just when I was ready to take Christ out of Christmas, the Lord showed me that to do so would be to limit his sovereignty. In any situation, however pagan and secular, God can use it to bring people to him. If Dec 25 is the only time people think about Jesus, then we should use every opportunity to win them with love.
There is a battle to be fought. As kingdom people, we are in battle constantly. We are to live in this world but are not to be of this world. We are to represent him. In sharing Christ at Christmas, we battle on to tell the world that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Only when we do that can we win people to the greater truth and that is Jesus is the reason for every season.