By David Hegg
This time of year, I often hear about the war on Christmas and how those who celebrate Christmas need to fight back. But those who attempt to pick a fight over Christmas and its status among Americans just don’t understand the reality of the situation. And that is often the case when arguments are seated on foundations that are historically faulty. While years of cultural progression have coated the celebration of Jesus’ birth with layers of selfish commercial and religious soot, who can really argue that the celebration itself has pagan origins? Consider this:
The date of Dec. 25 was picked, not because of any allegiance to paganism but to demonstrate the triumph of God’s Kingdom over all the false beliefs of this world. And an excellent argument can be made that the Christmas tree finds its origins, not in pagan symbols, but in two different German religious traditions, even as there is a case to be made that St. Nicolas, the Bishop of Myra, attended the pivotal Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. But frankly, all of this is quite beside the real point. While some attempt to pick a fight with Christmas and with those who champion it, Christmas just doesn’t need to fight back.
Christmas has already won.
The attempt to banish Christmas from the public sphere in our pluralistic society is yet another example of the way Christianity has been opposed down through the ages. And lest you think that I’m just trotting out the victim card, don’t worry. When you follow a Savior who was unjustly tried, condemned and crucified, you come to realize that following Him will mean that opposition is the norm, and suffering is the doorway to both clarity and power in this life. But it is also a fact worth mentioning that, like the Savior, Christianity continues to find life even after societies and nations have declared it dead and buried.
Today in Rome you can pay your euros and take a spectacular tour of the Colosseum. You’ll hear about the thousands of Christians forced to die in the Roman blood sports. Yet, today the Colosseum is a relic while Christianity continues to offer the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to millions yearly. And the stories of changed lives through Him continue to pour in from countries where those who follow Christ do so at the risk of their lives. Thousands who share our faith but not our freedom gladly follow their Lord with joy. Why? Simply because what Jesus has brought is much more than some political ideal or economic system. He brought — and continues to bring — life the way it was always meant to be lived, both in this world, and the next.
And that is what Christmas is really about. What its opponents brand as foolish or worse is not actually about trees or lights or carols or fruitcake. It isn’t inseparably attached to gifts or parties or crowded malls. It isn’t even about time off or family or any of the myriad things that make this season so special and beloved around the world.
Christmas is really about the love and faithfulness of God who, long ago, in the face of a sin-wrecked creation, determined that sin wouldn’t win. Instead, He made a promise to send the Savior who would reclaim creation, in all of its brokenness, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christmas is the celebration that this promise was fulfilled, and the authority of Heaven had once again come to rescue and repair what sin and selfishness had polluted.
And the rescue lives on, bringing restoration and purpose through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t look to governmental permission or acceptance from the scholars of academia for its place and power.
Christmas doesn’t need to fight any wars. Neither do Christians need to fight for Christmas to find a place. It found its place, just outside Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. And both the King and His Kingdom continue to grow, bringing to reality the angelic proclamation of “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
And when you see it that way, Christmas has already won the war.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.