Is Christmas Worth Defending?

         Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

by Bethany Keeley-Jonker

The more I think about Christmas traditions, the more I discover a strange amalgam of silly (but fun) cultural traditions, Christian symbolism, and unbridled consumerism.  For instance, consider the following symbols of Christmas that would be unrecognizable in first century Israel: snowmen, reindeer, pine boughs, holly, bells, sleigh rides, electric Christmas lights, electronics wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons.  Perhaps we can separate these things from “the reason for the season” or point to how they developed from the real gift of God With Us and the generosity of a real Saint Nicolas. I love a lot of these things, and I freely admit to buying a lighted garland to put on our mantle, and listening to Christmas songs that range from the profound (“O Come O Come Emmanuel”) to the ridiculous (“Christmas Don’t Be Late”).

Nonetheless, I am perplexed by people who fiercely defend these traditions and the use of phrases like “Merry Christmas” or “Christmas Party” as opposed to less specific references to “holidays” in the name of Christianity. To be perfectly honest, I’d feel more comfortable if a sale on sweaters at Old Navy stayed far away from my worship of Christ. I wonder if people concerned about the alleged “War on Christmas” are engaging in a deep conflation of Christianity with American Traditions. I want to suggest that while there is nothing wrong with bringing a pine tree indoors and putting some sparkling ornaments on it, it has little to do with the birth or life of Christ.

The more I think about the influences that go into the celebration of Christmas, the more uncertain I am about the appropriate Christian response…


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