From my Facebook feed I see that some Christians are really upset about all the efforts to make Christmas generic. I prefer to deal with it with some humor as this blogger does. Here is a sample : (BAH stands for the Boss of all Holidays.)
Me: What about Christians who get upset about Holiday trees instead of Christmas trees?
BAH: Nothing delights us more than when we hear Christians squawkin’ around the Holiday tree.
Me: *puzzled* Tell me more.
BAH: Candles, mistletoe, wreaths, and trees pre-date Christmas, and pagans used them to celebrate winter solstice. We think it is entertaining when Christians get defensive about these idolatrous symbols, showing ignorance of their own story.
I have resorted to saying “Happy Nativity” in past years. People gave me funny looks. This year I have experimented with “Happy Holy Days”. At least this is inclusive. Even if you are planning to make a blood sacrifice for the winter solstice, it is still a Holy Day.
It is true that the ancient church baptized a pagan holiday and made it into Christmas. The same with Easter with its fertility symbols of eggs and bunnies. The name of Easter derives from the goddess Ishtar.
But the concept of the church year from Advent and Christmas through Lent and Easter and on to Pentecost is a worthwhile teaching device. The ancient church was wise to appropriate these holidays.
What does not really derive from religion, pagan or Christian is the generic Christmas of snowmen and jingle bells. I like the part of the season that is just fun. I don’t get upset about it and I don’t think it is about being inclusive or surrendering to cultural correctness. Monotheism and Christocentric religion are by nature not inclusive. But there is no reason to disrespect other beliefs or abstain from the fun part of the season.
I liked this slide show at the Telegraph about the the celebration at Stonehenge this year. Druids, Wicca folks, Spiritual-But-Not-Religious, and the curious gather to celebrate. It is interesting. And I too want to celebrate the end of the days getting shorter. What was it C.S. Lewis said in one of the Narnia books about the evil world where it is always winter and never Christmas? The seasons change inclusively for those of all religions.
So there is nothing wrong with doing the generic stuff about eggnog and reindeer and even the commercial shopping side of Christmas. I hope for all our sakes that businesses do well.
But Christians celebrate the event of the Incarnation. We use theological terms like redemption, salvation and Messiah/Christ. It is not just the cycle of the seasons, but the altering of the moral and ontological structure of the God-human connection that make this a Holy Day.
So instead of doing a real meditation on Luke 2 today (I have dealt with the historical problems of this text before, but will avoid that distraction today), I will just lift up the words that seem to me at the heart of a non-generic celebration of the Holy Day of the Nativity:
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days.