Thursday, December 08, 2005

Putting Christmas in its proper place

I get irritated this time of year, and it has nothing to do with commercialization or crass advertising or even ridiculously bad Christmas music.

Mostly, I am uncomfortable with the exaltation of Christmas as a religious holiday, though it is a Christmas cultural tradition, and not something carrying Biblical endorsement.

Do I think it's good to honor of the birth of Christ? Of course. It also carries weighty doctrinal concern, specifically acknowledging the virgin birth and divine appointment of the Son of God.

What I think is wrong is when we get carried away with the spiritual significance of the day. In America, Christmas is the Christian holiday, while Easter is downplayed. Biblically speaking, the four Spring Festivals in the Jewish Calendar proved prophetic, and I am baffled how these have lost their weight in the Hellenized and Latinized Christian Church. (And, yes, I would love to see us return to our Jewish heritage for Spring Festivals, as well as some kind of corporate recognition of the Fall Festivals).

Christmas, short for Christ Mass, is essentially a Catholic tradition. I can think of few other non-Biblical Catholic traditions we Protestants have carried over. I suppose because the Bible is silent on such a celebration, we've decided not to offend tradition.

I think of the season in cultural terms, and I'm happy any time true Christian faith is expressed in any serious terms in a secular forum. But I refuse to belabor this day to complain about any missed meaning or lack of spiritual importance in our culture. At least in American, Christmas in its most pure form of celebration still looks like something out of Walt Disney's imagination. So much of its tradition is pagan, wrapped in shiny colors and bright designs.

Absent Biblical guidance, corporate celebration of Christmas is purely subjective, in my opinion, and to criticize churches who do not is a shaky position.

It just so happens that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, and some churches are cancelling regular services to return the day to families who wish to celebrate Christmas privately. If someone wants to criticize the corporate Church for allowing too much emphasis on individualism and not enough emphasis on community, I'm right there with you.

However, keep in mind this day has become so family-oriented because we've made it that way, and it's a message that's reinforced in thousands of pulpits -- even in those churches with a corporate Christmas celebration.

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