If I might be allowed to paraphrase something I read somewhere: “O ye of little faith.”
I mean, for real, how weak does your faith have to be in order for it to be threatened by a Mega-Mart employee policy? How fragile are your beliefs when some random town council calling a decoration a “Holiday Tree” causes a faith crisis? Just how shallow is your relationship with God when your kid’s school has a “Winter Concert” and it makes you cringe at the disgusting political correctness that is corrupting Christianity? (Writing with a tongue-in-cheek tone of voice, you understand.)
Okay, okay – I’m sorry. Where is that “grace-filled dialogue” that I’m supposed to be all about? I guess I needed to rant that little bit out of my system, though, in order to ask the question honestly once again. Does anybody really think that Christ can be taken out of Christmas?
To be sure, the “liturgical purist” Christian will not even celebrate Christmas until December 25th, when the season begins. This celebration would continue until January 6th, when Christmas actually ends. Presently we are celebrating Advent, the anticipation of Christmas. So our decorations and carols are really “Advent” decorations. Our greetings to one another should technically be “Happy Advent” rather than “Merry Christmas.” The local “Christmas” radio station would maintain their regular formatting except during the actual season, rather than start the Christmas music at Halloween and end at midnight on December 26th, like they do now.
So wouldn’t a true “Keep Christ in Christmas” attitude be one that avoids any mention of mangers, shepherds, magi, and multitudes of the heavenly host praising God in the field until the season actually starts? During the weeks leading up to the season, instead of little plastic baby Jesus in the front yard, there would be little displays of Isaiah laying into the house of Jacob, reminding them of God’s cosmic vision of peace on earth. Or maybe a light-up John the Baptist, complete with flashing camel hair, pointing at us with a crazy, angry expression on his face, telling us to prepare the way of the Lord. Instead of a wreath on the door, we could hang up decorative chaff burning with unquenchable fire.
The point I’m trying to make is that neither the Mega-Mart nor the local city council nor the administration of the elementary school is trying to remove Christ from Christmas, nor could they ever hope to succeed even so. They’re just trying to be what they are. Instead of getting angry at them this Advent, let’s channel that energy on a bit of self-reflection as the Church. How can we more intentionally prepare ourselves during these next four weeks so that the birth of Jesus might be all the more wonderful, mysterious, and meaningful this year?
Keeping Christ in Christmas means waiting - with patience and expectancy - for Christ's arrival. Maybe the problem is we just don't like to wait for stuff. "I want my Jesus born right this instant!" Sorry, that's not how it works. And so, we wait. Adventus - Parousia - Coming. As in, not quite here yet, but any minute now! And something about waiting patiently with expectancy and hope speaks to what faith is really all about. Wait for it.