Beckett: The War on Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, there have been uproars in Christian circles about “the war on Christmas.” On the one hand, some perceive a war on Christmas as being society’s intolerance of saying “Merry Christmas.” Society demands that we say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” since the latter can be offensive to those who aren’t Christian. Yet Christians are left offended in the process since they are scolded whenever they do say “Merry Christmas” in order to express their beliefs. On the other hand, others perceive there to be a war on Christmas in saying we need to “put Christ back into Christmas.” They have perceived that in society, Christmas is no longer about the birth of Christ but rather materialism and self-indulgence.

These tensions arise every Christmas; it never seems to end. And there are countless articles arguing there is a war on Christmas and other articles arguing there is no war on Christmas. This is neither of those articles. My objective is not to ascertain whether or not there is a war on Christmas. However, for the sake of argument, let’s hypothetically suppose there really is a war on Christmas. Using this as a possible reality, if there really is a war on Christmas, let me pose two questions: 1) Is it really a war on Christmas or is it a war on Christ? 2) With that in mind, should we be surprised?

Is it A War on Christmas or A War on Christ?

Christmas (or Advent, rather) is typically the joyous time of year in which a myriad of people become unexplainably jolly, wearing bright colours and decorating their furniture with bright lights. There is indeed joy during this season since it is a time in which we recall the birth of our King, Jesus Christ, in the small town of Bethlehem. Yet society has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. Some say it is a time of giving and selflessness. Sure, it’s a time of giving and selflessness, but not from one person to another. Christmas is about the selfless giving of God’s Son to fallen humanity in the humility of an infant, born of a virgin, born in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem. Christmas is not about our giving to each other, but about God giving His Son to us in His miraculous birth.

Christmas—for Christians and non-Christians alike—has become an idol. Non-Christians aren’t the only ones who’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas; Christians have forgotten as well. Christmas is not about being inexorably jolly or about giving presents to others; it is about the humble birth of our King who has come to redeem mankind for all who believe (John 3:16-18).

Linus gets it right in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown, who was perplexed about why he was not happy during the most joyous time of the year, tells his best friend, Linus, of his discomfort. When Charlie Brown tells Lucy, she says he needs to get involved in Christmas activities, such as being in charge of the Christmas play. But that doesn’t make things any better for Charlie Brown. In frustration, he yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus then comes forward, saying, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He proceeds to recite Luke 2:8-14:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

Christmas is not about gift-giving and unfounded joy. Christmas is about the humble birth of the Messiah who has brought salvation for all who believe in Him. 

Christmas has become an idol. When Christmas is forgotten and rejected, we protest in the name of Christmas, not in the name of Christ. Whenever Christmas is ridiculed or ignored, we make it about us, but it’s not about us! If there is any war on Christmas, it is not on the holiday and its platitudes, but on Christ Himself. We need to stop yelling at unbelievers for not celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and getting mad at them when they scold us for saying “Merry Christmas” when they want nothing to do with Christ in the first place. We also need to stop yelling at our Christian brethren to “put Christ back in Christmas” and need to first look within ourselves (cf. Matthew 7:1-5).

When we scold each other for something so insignificant and hypocritical, should we be so surprised when the rest of the world wants nothing to do with Christ during Christmas? Are we, God’s people, truly remembering the real meaning of Christmas? What’s more important to us? Our colourful Christmas sweaters, socks, and hats; saying “Merry Christmas” regardless of ones beliefs; or going to the Word in prayer and rumination to remember God’s purposeful action in coming down to us in the form of a defenseless infant? If there is any war on Christmas, it is not a war against the holiday, but on Christ.

Should We Be Surprised?

Now that we have been reminded on the true meaning of Christmas—the humble birth of God in the God-man Jesus Christ for the salvation of all who believe—and that if there is any war on Christmas, it is actually a war on Christ, should we be so surprised? I will never understand why we become so astonished whenever the world rejects Christ and anything else that is remotely Christian. Why does this always surprise us?

Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). Jesus elaborates on this later, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:18-20). Then He says the same thing in a different way: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus makes it irrevocably clear that the world hates Him, and because it hates Him, the world will also express its hatred toward His disciples, but it hated Him first. If there’s any obvious indication of the world’s hostility towards Christ, it is His crucifixion on the cross. “A servant is not great than his master,” Jesus said. Because we are not greater than our Master Jesus, this means we are not exempt from suffering and hatred. On the contrary, it is promised. The world’s way is to say “Happy Holidays,” so when we don’t conform to the ways of the world in this regard, of course they will hate us and scold us! Why are we always surprised when this happens?

Every one of the apostles were killed because of their discipleship with Christ (with the exception of John who wrote Revelation). The apostles weren’t the only ones; the murder of Christians have continued since first century Rome to the present day, and it’s not going to stop until Christ comes again—the second coming we look forward to after Christmas! The world hates Jesus Christ and anyone and anything having to do with Him.

So, if there is hypothetically a war on Christmas—or rather, Christ—why are we so surprised? Why do we keep expecting the world to accept and approve our Christian morals and our Christian culture? The world hates Christ, and it therefore hates us, and it is bound to take our Christian morals and culture and pervert them to their wicked wills.

Is There a War on Christmas?

Is there a war on Christmas? Maybe. Maybe not. If there isn’t, that’s good for us. If there is, it is not a war on Christmas but a war on Christ. So, if there really is a war on Christ(mas) from the world that hates Him and anyone and anything having to do with Him, why are we so surprised? Moreover, why do we keep expecting godless society to do godly things? It is not the nature of godless society to do—let alone be interested in—godly things. It is not godly of us to demand orthodox, Christian experiences with our manmade traditions amongst the ungodly that want nothing to do with Christ and His disciples and their culture.

Furthermore, there is a war on Christ, but it has nothing to do with Christmas. The war on Christ has everything to do with sin. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7). God reconciled us to Himself by faith in Christ whilst we were His enemies (Romans 5:10). As enemies of God whose minds are set in the flesh and hate God’s law, in this state of original sin we want nothing to do with God—we set ourselves hostile against Him. Yet in spite of our hostility, God reconciled us to Himself by Christ coming down from His heavenly throne and being born an infant to fully submit to God’s law that we are incapable of doing and paying the price for our sins by His death. That is the true meaning of Christmas—the Good News of Jesus Christ—and it is this Christ whom the world constantly wars against. We are often casualties in this war, but Christ has overcome the world in His death and resurrection, and we, too, are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us to death (Romans 8:37).

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