2004-12-20

On Christ and Christmas


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I had to laugh so I wouldn't cry as I recently read two similar stories from New Jersey and Arizona, although I'm sure this issue is popping up across the nation. It seems school districts are banning songs that reference Christ from any of their Christmas, or rather, "Winter Holiday that falls in December" celebrations. In both cases, "Winter Wonderland" and "Frosty the Snowman" were deemed "suitable." So, it appears that besides Christ, substance is also on the chopping block.

Of course we are also annually treated to battles between city councils and the ACLU and other organizations over public nativity scenes. In addition, many cities have taken to calling their decorated, lighted trees, "Holiday trees."

All of that is nothing new. The biggest change I've noticed is the rise in Christians decrying this movement to "take Christ out of Christmas." While I appreciate the sensitivity, I'm dismayed that so many well-meaning Christians proudly proclaim the "true" meaning of the season: a cute little baby, wrapped in clean, white, cottony-soft blankets, with optional puffs of snow on the stable eaves and livestock that smile and sing but certainly don't smell.

One of the great things about Advent is the call to think about why Christ came, and examine ourselves in that light. The real question is: what will you do about this little baby? This one who tells the powerful that they have no power, and commands the rich to let go of their riches. This one who will kick over tables in the temple and will try to overturn all that seems logical and practical in your life. If we are content to leave this baby in the manger we have taken Christ out of Christ!

Recently I heard a school teacher tell of a class project - sending Christmas cards to our soldiers in Iraq. It seems some of the children were reluctant to wish the troops a "Merry Christmas" for fear that it would make them uncomfortable. This really strikes at the heart of the matter.

Christ came to make us all uncomfortable. The power in Christmas is not a baby in a manger. That is something warm, fuzzy and entirely comfortable. No. The true power in Christmas is an innocent man on a cross and an empty tomb. It is a Spirit relentlessly pursuing and challenging, convicting and inspiring.

We need not worry about the world's semantics at this time of year, for we have plenty to deal with on our own. The question that faced a Bethlehem innkeeper 2000+ years ago is the same question that faces each of us today: Do you have room?

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