Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should Christmas be only for Christians?

Over the last couple of years, I've seen a sentiment amongst some of my fellow Christians that goes something like this:

"I wish non-Christians would just quit celebrating Christmas, since all they do is perpetuate consumerism and materialism, want me to quit saying "Merry Christmas" and take all the nativity scenes out of public places. They take one of the most important Christian holidays of the year and try to strip it of all true meaning and what we're left with is a whitewashed, meaningless, postmodern spend-fest."

Or something like that.

Since last year, when a friend of mine said something to the affect of the above on her Facebook page, I've thought about whether there should be some separation of Christian Christmas, and secular Christmas; or whether non-Christians should celebrate it at all. Should non-Christians, particularly the staunchly non-religious, leave our holiday alone? Should the solution to the "don't-say-Merry-Christmas-for-fear-of-offending-someone" attitude be to reclaim our holiday for ourselves, creating a marked separation between those who celebrate the birth of Christ in December and those who do not?

Personally, I say no. I don't think it would be better if non-Christians began to forgo the tree and lights and stories of Santa Claus; if they packed up their Elf on the Shelf and quit baking cookies and hanging up stockings.

Do many of the secular Christmas traditions and practices muddle our view of the real meaning of Christmas? Sure. Do I get annoyed at the idea of not telling people "Merry Christmas" because it might somehow offend someone? Yep. Is there far too much emphasis on the material side of Christmas? Probably. But I don't think the solution is to insist that Christmas is solely a Christian holiday and non-Christians ought to just leave it alone already. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater here.

In our culture, there is already a line drawn between Christians, and basically everyone else. Faith and the practice thereof is being pushed further and further into the margins, relegated to the corners of our lives, something not to be brought out except in certain company. The "us" versus "them" mentality is already too pervasive and threatens to create further divisions between those who believe and those who do not.

Rather than take back Christmas as a holiday not to be shared, why not graciously let the non-Christian partake in the feast of the birth of our Lord? Who knows what might come of the experience for some? Isn't it possible that a child might grow up celebrating even the most secularized version of Christmas, only to be curious someday as to where the holiday started? They might ask questions and it could be that maybe, just maybe, the magic and splendor of their Christmas celebrations will plant the tiniest of seeds in their heart. It could be one of many things that leads people to Jesus in the course of a lifetime, but an important one nonetheless.

This is not to say that I think people will grow up with the hustle and bustle and shopping and buying and spending and giving and it will somehow begin converting people en masse. But what if it opens the possibility, however small, for some?

I don't think the solution to rising secularism is to hunker down in our little church bubbles and insist the outside world stay out. I think if we, as Christians, begin pulling away from non-Christians, the divide between us will only grow wider and the opportunities to share our faith, even in the smallest of ways, will dwindle. Instead of perpetuating the us versus them mentality, let us lead by example, celebrating with our families and communities and model the true meaning of Christmas; let our actions carry our message to those around us. Who knows? You never know what small bit of kindness, what tiny bit of joy might touch someone's heart and Jesus only needs the tiniest crack in our soul to begin shining his light inside.

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