It must be the holiday season as recriminations about Christmas have began. This person hates Christmas. That person thinks we misunderstand Christmas. That guy thinks we should all just get along. Fox News is sure that there is a war on Christmas. Jon Stewart is sure that Christmas is in no danger, and may just be a threat to say, Thanksgiving. Yet Christmas has become a term that we use to lob at one another with everyone meaning something else.
For methodological purposes I would argue that there are actually, at least, two Christmases. There is Christmas, the social construct, and Christmas, the religious festival. There is the Christmas that is invading malls and public spaces everywhere, and there is the Christmas celebration coming soon to a church near you. And of course there is quite a bit of inter-breeding between the two.
And this explains the now annual brouhaha, known as the possible war or non-war on Christmas. It seems that when Fox is complaining they are actually voicing a concern that the religious event is being attacked and destroyed. And when Jon Stewart dismisses this as nonsense, as he did on a recent show, he refers to Christmas, the social event of the season. In a sense both are right, and both are wrong.
I would argue that the biggest danger to Christmas comes not from Atheists or the Anti-Defamation League, but from Christmas, itself. Christmas, the social construct, is the greatest danger to Christmas, the religious festival. And possibly vice versa. In a sense modern Evangelicals who take their festival days seriously face a tremendous challenge, but not the one they think they are facing. Nothing is more dangerous to this period, than the women who almost knocked me over (while I was struggling to get two awkwardly sized packages into a smallish but heavy USPS mail slot) in her attempt to get her own package into the slot and go on to the next 100 errands of the season.
Yet nothing is more dangerous to this period, than stopping for a moment to consider what all this madness is really all about. This month we celebrate the coming of God into the pages of history to make the world right. When we consider the Christ and his example, the self-sacrificial giving of ones’ self for one’s enemies, both the consumerist orgy known as the Holiday Season and the knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred grudge match known as the Culture Wars look pale and petty in comparison. A true Christmas is not about gaining ground by a well placed gift; nor is it about slamming and shaming one’s opponents.
We could, as the meme suggests, keep calm and carry on. Or we could mediate on all the ways we have misappropriated the season by word, thought, and action. We could confess our sins. We could wait patiently for that coming day when Christ will return to set all things right. We take a moment to participate in the in-breaking kingdom of God by seeking to walk humbly, love mercifully, and act justly. In a sense we could take a breathe, and remember the real reason for the season.