Christians To Blame For Secular Christmas
When the now infamous White House social secretary Desiree Rogers revealed to The New York Times that the Obamas were planning a "non-religious" Christmas for the "people's house," she put herself at the center of an entirely different, but no less fiery, controversy -- the Christmas wars.
Early this year, during a luncheon with other former social secretaries, Rogers announced that part of the Obamas' new spirit of inclusiveness (ironically) would exclude references to Christianity during Christmas. Most notably, the Obamas would not be displaying the 18th century White House nativity scene. An Obama official confirmed that there were internal discussions regarding the manger display, but in the end, tradition (along with post-state dinner scandal fatigue) trumped, and the Holy Family was not banned from the East Room after all.
Meanwhile, Dr. James Dobson's influential conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family, is promoting StandforChristmas.com, a Web site that helps shoppers rank "Christmas-friendly" retailers (most friendly: Bass Pro Shops; least friendly: American Eagle Outfitters). The site reminds visitors that retailers "want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars" and then asks, "but do they openly recognize Christmas?"
Sadly, both approaches precisely miss the point of this sacred and beautiful holiday.
It makes zero sense to recruit retailers in this crusade when consumerism is the reason why Christmas has morphed into a hollow shopping ritual that, come January, leaves too many families with debt hangovers and an empty feeling inside. Demanding that store clerks cheerily proclaim "Merry Christmas" as they ring up your power tools and iPod does precious little to put the Christ-child back in Christmas.
To the Obamas and others pushing the ridiculous notion of a "non-religious" Christmas, it would do them well to consider that respect for other people's faith is not accomplished by hiding your own. If the goal of the White House is to remain neutral about part of our nation's heritage, Christianity, or, for that matter, about the religious beliefs held by many of its current residents, fine with me. But if that's the case, then please spare us the tab for the reported 50,000 visitors who will be cocktailed and dined this month in an endless succession of banal and meaningless "holiday" parties.
If Christians truly desire to bring sacredness and religious significance back to Christmas, then it's silly to look to retailers or the First Family. Instead, let it begin, as charity does, at home. Families can start by reintroducing the season of Advent and the spirit of reflection and spiritual preparation that once occupied the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Instead of allowing ourselves to get swept up in the whirlwind of "holiday" parties, useless gift exchanges and harried shopping, we can use those weeks to prepare our hearts and homes in meaningful ways for the Prince of Peace. Make time for family prayer, singing and the lighting of the Advent wreath. Choose cards and decorations that have religious significance.
How many homes have a prominently displayed nativity scene at Christmas time? My guess is not too many. The same goes for Christmas carols. Does your playlist include more Frosty and Santa Baby than Silent Night and Handel's Messiah? How about keeping those lights on and the tree in the house for the twelve days of Christmas - you know the twelve that follow Christmas day. Or consider caroling or having a Christmas gathering after December 25th? We have only ourselves to blame when we lose these beautiful traditions.
Should Christians be concerned about the secularization of Christmas? Sure they should. I resent school "winter" concerts, "holiday" parades, and the ridiculous fear that prevents people from wishing each other "Merry Christmas!" with total abandon.
But Christmas starts with us. In our hearts. In our homes. And in a very simple decision to reclaim the silence, joy, and quiet simplicity of that first Christmas in Bethlehem when God chose to speak to mankind in the small cry of a newborn baby.