Advent Season, Part I: Fighting for…

The image above is an actual billboard on display in New Jersey. You can read about the billboard here.

As we go into Advent Season, I’d like to take a look at what it’s all about. Why does Christmas matter?

In my own home, there has been lots of discussion regarding Santa (and our son’s future Christmas traditions), and this has set me to thinking about the meaning of Christmas. People have different views about Christmas, and its interesting to me how this plays out in American culture. This video is a good example:

For starters, the claim that Christianity stole Christmas is silly. Yes, other religions have similar holidays (and they may have even come first) but Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ coming to earth. No other religion claims that (or calls it Christmas for that matter). It’s also interesting to me that I never hear people raise a fuss over Easter, despite its ties to fertility rites in other religions. The whole argument seems to be more about “Christianity is wrong” rather than a reclamation of the “holiday season,” (it is, after all, hard for someone who doesn’t believe any kind of god exists to reclaim a holiday which celebrates such a deity). But whatever. This is not the real problem anyway.

Part of the reason Christmas has become a battle ground is because Christians do not approach it in terms of worshipping God, as those present for Jesus’ birth did. It upsets people when they’re told God in the form of Man was born on December 25th if the person telling them this is a hypocrite. We, as Christians, do not often treat Christmas in terms of God redeeming humanity, but rather in terms of traditions and hot chocolate and presents. What atheist would ever believe Jesus mattered when the Church spends more money on Christmas gifts than they do caring for the poor?

“That’s an excuse,” some might say. Perhaps. And ultimately, critics are right when they point out that a bad example will not excuse anyone when they stand before God. But we cannot be guilty of using that very idea as an excuse to wage a war in which the victor wins nothing. Make no mistake, winning a cultural battle of words gains nothing, except pride in proving your enemy wrong (which in the end equals…? Well, nothing). We should be fighting for the lives of the lost, not the “reason for the season.”

I know that for many Americans, those two are the same thing. They’re not, though. How do we glorify God? We do as He commanded (love God, love our neighbor, love each other). This is how people will know we are Christians: by our love!

Advent Season matters because it is the beginning of something different, something new.

From now until Christmas arrives, I’ll be looking at what this “something new” might be. And why its important.

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10 thoughts on “Advent Season, Part I: Fighting for…

  1. “For starters, the claim that Christianity stole Christmas is silly. Yes, other religions have similar holidays (and they may have even come first) but Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ coming to earth”

    You seem to have misunderstood.

    What Christianity stole (or co-opted, if that sounds better) was the date/time of year to celebrate and the style of celebration. It was a completely understandable and politically motivated move: Christianity is in charge but lots of people are still pagan. Solution? Take Christian holidays and overlay them on the existing pagan holidays with very little change to the actual celebration, and by doing so both conform the pagans to Christianity and conform Christianity to paganism.

    Gift-giving festivals celebrated with lights and pine trees at the end of December were the norm long before Christianity. The birth of Christ had nothing to do with it until the Church decided to make it so.

    And I’m not complaining. I don’t particularly care. But what I do care about is when some Christians complain that I am co-opting their holiday, when it is exactly what their religious ancestors did.

    “What atheist would ever believe Jesus mattered when the Church spends more money on Christmas gifts than they do caring for the poor?”

    As a bit of advice, most atheists wouldn’t believe Jesus mattered even if the Church spent all it’s money caring for the poor. I wouldn’t. I’d be happy that the Church was doing something good. But I still wouldn’t be interested in your religion.

    • NotAScientist,

      I appreciate your perspective on Christmas, although I don’t think it is the view being offered in the video I posted. Regardless, we must clarify something before continuing. Christianity did not steal any holidays. The proper term is accretion. It applies to lots of cultural things, ranging from writing to oral storytelling to traditions. No one in the Ancient or Medieval world would have thought that what the Catholic Church did regarding holidays was out of the ordinary. The Roman Empire was doing this sort of thing long before the Church did. This is something that should be understood by anyone making the claim that Christmas should lose it’s Christian elements (but I don’t get the impression you belong to that camp). The Holiday Season has seen lots of traditions and meaning adopted into the fold, and to argue that one is invalid is to argue that all are invalid. After all, who knows where it truly began? While I don’t agree with this practice that the Catholic Church adopted (meaning accretion of local traditions), to argue the validity of those acts is pointless. And its not the purpose of this blog.

      The purpose of this post does relate to your second point. I can’t quite communicate to you how sad it makes me that you would never be willing to consider Christianity. I know that this doesn’t really matter to you, but I am sorry that the Church (myself included) has not done a better job of representing who God is. He is someone worth knowing, despite the difficulties that accompany faith. I do sincerely hope that this Christmas, you will not be harassed by Christians trying to push a religious agenda on you. This may be odd coming from a complete stranger, but I will be praying for you, and I wish you the merriest of holidays.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion. That’s what this is all about.

      Sean

      • “I can’t quite communicate to you how sad it makes me that you would never be willing to consider Christianity.”

        I didn’t say I would never be willing to consider Christianity.

        “but I am sorry that the Church (myself included) has not done a better job of representing who God is. ”

        My point was, the actions of the Church or individuals associated with the religion have nothing to do with my beliefs. You could all be the most wonderful, incredible, generous and loving people the world has ever know…and that would have nothing to do with whether or not your religion is true or false.

        That being said, I’m completely behind anyone who wants to be a better person.

      • “I can’t quite communicate to you how sad it makes me that you would never be willing to consider Christianity.”

        I didn’t say I would never be willing to consider Christianity.

        My apologies. I was being presumptuous.

        As to your second point, since we are speaking in hypotheticals, I’d have to disagree with you. While the failure or success of an individual does not cancel out the truth of Jesus (I know that’s not your point, but we agree in a way), I do think how we live can affect what other people believe. The early Christians made an impact because they lived in an extraordinary way. I’d recommend Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force. I’d also recommend N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. One is an excellent example of how Christians influenced people not by preaching or forcing an agenda, but by how they lived (particularly Chapter 4). The second is a good examination of why many think, my self included, that Christianity is true.

        Ultimately, I think Jesus called His followers to live in a certain way because He knew that living in such a manner could change, not only the individual, but the world. And I agree with that.

  2. Sean – you may be interested in the advent conspiracy. We are doing this for the 2nd year in a row with our church. We reach out locally, nationally, and internationally.

    We are faced with the same thoughts on Christmas traditions this year. Three gifts is our new normal – after all Jesus got 3 gifts on his birth day.

    Thanks for provoking our thoughts!

    • April,

      I love the Advent Conspiracy organization (and Spilling Hope as well). Sarah and I give to them each year, and we give to Living Water International throughout the year. I’ve even posted a couple of things about them in the past. It’s a good work being done.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. And good luck with AK’s Christmas!

      Sean

  3. Pingback: The Joys of Halloween « Behind the Veil: Where Heaven & Earth Collide

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