Thursday, December 23, 2010


Let's concede, for the sake of argument, that there is something called a "war on Christmas." The media, popular culture, liberals, atheists, religious apathy, whoever or whatever you want to blame, is responsible for dampening true and authentic celebration of the Nativity of Christ. There's a big and powerful Grinch out there somewhere stealing all the stockings and leaving even less than a satisfying crumb for true Christians to nibble at come Christian morning.

If this is really happening, a good question arises: how should Christians respond?

One option is to simply go with the flow, celebrate the holidays with the rest of the culture, and re-christen the season christmakwanzakah. Put on a generalized religious face and celebrate the true meaning of the season in our private hearts and homes and perhaps churches (although the last one seems increasingly optional).

A second option is to be offended, go to war, defend the season, complain about all the secularizations, the consumerist mis-appropriation of the season for economic gain, put up signs that say "Put the Christ back in Christmas," etc.

These seem to be the two most popular options. The first is the result, probably, of lukewarmness, apathy, and a kind of laissez faire cultural accomodationism. The second arises out of defensiveness, concern that the reason for the season will be lost if we don't collectively raise up arms. It is also probably energized by the sense that somehow Christianity is losing its place as THE cultural religion in America. Perhaps we are entering a post-Christendom era. Oh my.

However, my thesis, once I've conceded that a war on Christmas is happening (and I concede it only for the sake of argument--I don't actually think such a war exists, or if it does, that it is of the order of magnitude most of us fear--or perhaps what I mean to say is that what some perceive as a war on Christmas is actually the general response the world has always and ever had to the Nativity of Christ) is that the Christian response to such a situation should be dramatically different than either of these two options. The Christian option should be something like the following:

1) Sing anyway. In this sense Dr. Seuss's Whoville residents get it just right. If you wake up and the presents, tree, stockings, and feast are all stolen, sing anyway. Whoville doesn't get all up in arms, chase after the Grinch, and berate him. They just sing anyway. The first Christmas wasn't much to sing about, or the second, or the third. Holy innocents were slaughtered, Jesus and Mary and Joseph had to flee as refugees to Egypt. The birth took place in a manger. Etc. If there is a war on Christmas, sing anyway.

2) Don't get defensive, be a missionary. Pete Ward in Participation and Mediation: A Practical Theology for the Liquid Church, offers a thesis statement for the context of all his theological work. He says, "Looking back it was clear to me that my work with young people grew out of a theological conviction.The conviction was based on a belief that God cared passionately for those who didn't come to church." Translating this sentence for this blog post, I could say, "It has become clear to me that my celebration of Christmas grows out of a theological conviction. The conviction is based on the belief that God cares passionately for those who don't celebrate Christmas or miss its point entirely."

Furthermore, I just don't think that individuals, or the principalities and powers, will come to a better understanding of Christmas if Christians just starts shouting "Christmas" in a louder voice. Protests and signs defending the season aren't going to cut it. If Christians want to live Christmas and witness to the Nativity of Christ and the Incarnation of the Logos in our increasingly secular and inter-religious world, I happen to think they simply need to be more incarnational, and more logocentric themselves. Read the word together. Invite others. Live in the spirit. Be joyous. Do ministry with refugees. Protect holy innocents. Work for justice. Know their theology enough to know what it means to be incarnational, and know the scriptures well enough to know what the incarnation of the logos signifies.

Instead of defending the holiday, as if Christmas needed a defense strategy, remember that Christ came into the world precisely for, and on behalf of, those who had not yet known God as clearly as they could. Christ came into the world, born of the virgin Mary, because God cares passionately for the whole world, and perhaps especially those who aren't in church on Christmas Eve.


  1. Len Mason6:04 PM

    Great post. Thanks.

  2. Nicely written. I am glad this went up today though since I write something similar over at The Other Journal's blog, Mediation. I would not want to be accused of stealing ideas... although you write much more cleanly than I did...

    Nice post.