By: Scott Taylor
I can’t remember the first time I saw the familiar sign. Perhaps it was on the back of a car. Perhaps it was in front of a church. The commanding words stretching across a sign, “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
I suspect I know the origins of the sign and its sentiment; how in an ever mixing and globalizing world, we have had to make concessions in the name of political correctness. Out with “Merry Christmas” and in with “Happy Holidays.” And so, it seems right for Christendom to rise up with this catchy little idiom, filled with a humble simplicity and a touch of righteousness. Keep Christ in Christmas (and don’t let those other “holidays” encroach on our big day)!
Though not the point of this article, I should mention a few things in fairness. First, Christmas is, in the same traditions as Easter and indeed our veneration of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, an assimilation of a pre-Christian pagan observances, in this case the Winter Solstice. Second, the word “holiday” is a very Christian word from the Old English. It’s meaning should be rather obvious. Holy Day!
Nevertheless, it is a catchy little saying. But, catchy little sayings rarely tell the whole truth, and in this instance, I am concerned that it may be sending some mixed messages. This bumper sticker is attempting to say something important to a distracted world. “Don’t get so caught up in buying presents and preparing for parties that you forget Christ!” This is an important message and one that we need to heed. But I hear something more.
When I read this sign today, I hear another message. I hear this sign saying “Come and behold the newborn baby in a manger. He will never be more accessible, more easy to hold, than he is at this moment. Never more delightful. See, he’s smiling and cooing. He is so small and so helplessly human. He doesn’t have much to say. Later on things will change. He will speak up and when he does he will have a few things to say to those who would do evil. He will have a great deal to say about greed. More than that, wait till you hear what he has to say to those who would presume to be righteous. But never mind that now. Let’s keep him like this. Let’s keep Christ in Christmas. It really is the most wonderful time of the year!”
You know, it’s hard to be Christ’s church in this world. I think he knew that when he asked his disciples to “take up the cross.” Christ’s invitation to follow him is just as nuts today as it was for the first disciples. Being called to be the hands and feet of Christ is dangerous in this world. This world that is plagued by sin and brokenness and seems just as dark today as it did 2000 years ago. This world that still “casts the first stone.” This world that continues to not know how to “put away the sword.” This world that can’t seem to forgive each other just once, let alone “seventy times seven times.” This world that, like myself, is so much better at quoting the words of Christ than living his Gospel.
I don’t know why there is so much darkness in the world. What I do know is that God is not indifferent to our needs. After all, he sent himself as this baby. This baby who would one day sit in the temple and challenge the religious majority. This baby who would one day turn water into wine and touch the untouchables. This baby who would one day stand on a mountain and commission us to go into the world. Into this world. What if we heard that commission once again as we approach his manger? What if, perhaps as we light each of our candles on Christmas Eve, we were moved by something deeper than nostalgia?
Let us not keep Christ in Christmas, for this child is the world’s best hope. Let us unleash Christ on this world!