Monday, December 23, 2013

Taking Christ Out of Christmas

 I think I understand the concern some folks have about substituting generic holiday greetings for Christmas greetings or replacing Christ in Christmas with an X. The latter is now more often understood as the unknown of algebra than the ancient Christian symbol using the Greek letter with which the name “Christ” begins. And the former symbolizes the apparent move to complete the secularization – for purposes of ostensibly non-offensive marketing – of a primarily religious holiday. Frankly, though, I am not sure that responding to a clerk’s, “Happy Holidays” with a snarling, snapping, “Merry Christmas!!” is the best way to redeem the season. That aside, is it possible to think about this whole thing another way?

Maybe the big problem with Christmas is not so much in the words we speak or the symbols we use as it is in way we isolate and enshrine it. The story of the Incarnation – the Word made flesh and dwelling among us – the coming of God to be with us and for us – can often get lost in the holiday-zation of a holy-day. No less for Christians than for others. The point of holy days is not the creation of a shrine in time, which we regularly visit with appropriate seasonal wonder, but the redeeming of all time. Perhaps we make the manger and its cast of characters the centerpiece – and miss the point.

It is appealing, in many ways, to simply leave Jesus safe in the manger where we might come and visit – or where we might even come and adore and bow down and worship – but which we may then leave to go about our business. No fear – we’ll be back for another sentimental visit next year. Of course none of us does that. At least not on purpose. But I wonder if we do that accidently. We become more enthralled in the wrappings than awed by the wonder of Christmas. And we forget to take Christ out of Christmas to be Immanuel – to be God with us – to be Word made flesh and tenting in our back yard.

So, a suggestion. Enjoy the Day – the Holy Day – for all its worth. Sing, laugh, eat, drink, enter into the wonder made real in family and friends. Give and receive gifts. Wear festive clothing. Welcome the stranger.

But then, the next day, take Christ out of Christmas to walk you in your ordinary, everyday, walking around life. Invite Him to be, truly, God with You.

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