Several news outlets, including CBS and NBC, recently covered a story about yet another apparent attack on Christmas. It even made the news in England. A Jewish mom complained about a trip her son’s class was going to take to see Santa, so the school canceled the trip. As one Fox News Commentator put it, this is yet more evidence of the war on Christmas.
I’m a pastor. I’ve been a Christian all of my life. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. We start decorating before Thanksgiving. We take our annual Christmas trip to Disneyland before Thanksgiving. We start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve services are the high point of my year. I love Christmas.
Back when I was in grade school, in the 1960’s, in a suburb with 30%+ of the population made up of Jewish households, several voices, including some Lutheran voices, argued for removing Christmas shows from schools. My father was so hyped up about it that he became the spokesperson for those who believed that taking Christmas out of schools was a war on Christmas. Because of his leadership, he was asked to run for several political positions including the local school board, Mayor, and Congress. (He, thankfully, lost all of those elections).
All these years later concerns about the war on Christmas and taking Christ out of Christmas capture headlines and throw groups of people into cultural and religious anxiety.
But is there really a war on Christmas?
Here’s what I see:
A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the moving telling of the story of the birth of Jesus, continues to air on a national network every year (more than once!) and continues to be one of the most watched holiday specials of the year.
In almost every radio market, at least one “secular” station plays Christmas music 24/7 for weeks, mixing in secular music with sacred songs about Jesus.
Every Christmas night Dr. Who has a Christmas special.
PBS broadcasts Christmas concerts featuring sacred, Christ-centered carols.
People across the country decorate their homes inside and outside for Christmas.
Malls and stores decorate for Christmas.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas day churches around the world will be full to overflowing with people celebrating the birth of Jesus.
In reality, you can’t go anywhere for at least a month without seeing signs of Christmas everywhere!
If there is a war on Christmas, it is and always will be a losing battle.
Having said that, the story of Jesus, according to Jesus himself, is summarized in these words: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Should a Jewish boy or a Muslim girl or a non-believing child be forced to visit Santa on a school trip? Should a public school make kids of all religious faiths sing songs about Jesus? That doesn’t seem to be the most loving thing. (I’m guessing most Christians who are concerned about the war on Christmas would not want Ramadan concerts in their kids’ schools!)
Jesus can take care of himself just fine. The world stops every year and always will for a holy moment whether it wants to or not because of his birth. We don’t need to fight any supposed war on Christmas. Nor do we need to force Christmas on people of other faiths or life perspectives.
Christmas is a time to pause, reflect, to be with family, and for those of us who are Christians, to celebrate the birth of Jesus in ways that bring light in the darkness in gracious, not forceful, ways.