Keeping Christ in Christmas

I chuckle when my friends lament the steady advance of Christmas music onto the turf of the “regular” year.  I chuckle because my feathers get ruffled during the holidays too, but it isn’t the sounds of carols in November that grate on my ears; it’s the inevitable tune played by an institution I like to call the WCC, “The Wholly Complaining Church.”

I received an email forward from this Church last year.  It sung the classic WCC Christmas-tree dirge, “These are not Holiday Trees, they are not Winter Festival Trees, they are not Hanukkah Bushes, they are not Allah plants!  They are Christmas Trees! Say it… Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! NOT Holiday!”

Shouting “Christmas, Not Holiday,” “Keep Christ In Christmas,” and other slogans at a degrading American society is usual fair for the WCC.  Anything that seemingly questions the status or entitlement of American Christianity is likely to receive its rather creative criticism.

Now, I would never suggest that we replace Jesus with a jolly ol’ man known for breaking-and-entering, but demanding that society respect Christian tradition simply isn’t the way to Keep Christ in Christmas.

In the middle of his letter to the Philippian Church, Paul breaks out into a Christmas song, echoing what many believe to be an earlier Christian hymn:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

 taking the form of a servant,

being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself to the point of death,

 even death on a cross.

[Philippians 2:4-8]

Christmas has always been about the humility of Christ.  It can serve, therefore, only as an ironic platform for Christian complaint.  How can we complain that our holiday isn’t receiving respect when the holiday itself showcases the humiliation of our only ruler?

Identifying with this humility, however, doesn’t mean that the “Wholly Complaining Church” becomes the “Wholly Compliant Church.” Baby Jesus in the manger is an unexpected and powerful symbol which stands as a critique of every worldly power; the man who existed in the form of God, through whom the cosmos were created, the Messiah, the Lord of Lords, at whose name every knee shall bow… this man possessed no sense of entitlement.

He made himself nothing;

the King took on the form of the servant.

Christmas makes demands, but these demands include the consideration of others as more important than the self, the pursuit of their interests, and the witness of Christian humility.  Our society isn’t tasked with keeping Christ in Christmas, we are.  Let’s follow Christ’s example, refusing the temptation to complain and resisting the allure of entitlement.  Instead of demand or lament, let’s win outsiders over with demonstrations of power that resonate with the manger; with the love of a Lord willing to forfeit his status.

This year, let’s keep Christ in Christmas.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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  • Very nice, I’ve been thinking the same thing. Let’s be a little lovin for Jesus this year.

  • “Anything that seemingly questions the status or entitlement of American Christianity is likely to receive its rather creative criticism.” I think what people are lamenting is God and Christianity being removed from the public arena (prayer in public schools outlawed, the Ten Commandments being taken out of courtrooms, crosses being torn down from public parks, etc.). They view it (Christmas) as being under attack from those who do not want Jesus lifted up during this time of year. God bless you.

    • Also, there is no such thing as “American Christianity.”

      • There shouldn’t be! But I’m afraid the Christianity of the Church in the United States is often all too American.

  • Eric Johnson

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

    If we are looking out for others, wouldn’t we start by looking out for their spiritual salvation? Aren’t we here to spread Gods word? So we should be fighting tooth and nail to keep Christ centered in our life. Do we tolerate other beliefs that do not lead to salvation? Absolutely not. We live for the truth, and we live to spread the word. When other religions are praised, and Christianity is targeted we are absolutely correct to say no. The only way to heaven is through a person relationship and faith with GOD (our god only). To tolerate anything else to be “nice” is condemning someone to a lifetime of gnashing of teeth.

    • I’m not sure how effective shouting Keep Christ in Christmas is at “spreading God’s word.” What I am trying to say is that the way we communicate the message is just as important as the message itself; this evangelical Christmas trend seems hypocritical to me.

    • Christian dooshery “sentences people to a lifetime of gnashing teeth.”

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