Christ in Christmas or Santa in Christmas? Or neither? (2 of 2)

This muse is not an exposé on Christmas, but along the way intentions changed and the end (2018) looks nothing like the beginning (336).

Intention is a fascinating word. Merriam-Webster defines intention this way: “a determination to act in a certain way.” 

“It is my intent to . . .”

“I’m intending to . . .”

“My intentions are . . .”

Perhaps you recall the proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Intention is a noun: “a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things.” In this case intention is a thing. 

A few synonyms can be: aim, ambition, aspiration, design, dream, end, goal, idea.

Intent can be good or bad based on what we want from it—the content we give it. It’s my intent to marry you. The intent here is morally good. I intend to kill you. No question here the intent is bad. The funny part is that sometimes good intents end up bad and bad intents end up good. And for no fault of our own our intent gets hijacked and changed in ways we neither planned or would approve, hence that saying that good intentions pave the road to hell.

Isaiah has a burning message for the Israelites from God over their trusting in pagan gods:

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
    take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
    from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
    what I have planned, that I will do.” (Isaiah 46: 8-11 NIV.)

God’s intent ends as it begins and is good. What he says he does and what he does is always for our good. Oh, but with us it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’m always reminded of a truth I learned while studying early American history. By the third, certainly the fourth generation, what began by the first generation has changed significantly. Intents are up close and personal for the first generation. For each generation after, those intents become more abstract. Each new generation no longer feels obligated to the original intents and begin to change them out of their reasons in the now. So the simple service of celebrating Jesus’ birth that was our way of acknowledging what he did for us began to take on trappings when we added to the celebration candles, gifts, trees, colored lights, nativity scenes, and was taken out of the church and put it in our homes. What began as simple became complicated, became abstract from what was in the church. All this took on a life of its own and we lost the meaning of the original intent. None of this was by God’s intent. None of this was by Jesus’ intent. It isn’t that it’s wrong to thank Jesus for what he did for us, to even celebrate that, but we gave the celebration a life of its own that easily morphed into something wholly different. Each addition to the celebration at the time seemed good and intended to add meaning to the celebration. But in the end the trappings became our focus, not Jesus, not his birth. It feels like his birth is just an excuse we use for the wild celebration we’ve adopted.

Well, not only did we Christians change the tradition of Christmas begun in 336 AD, non-Christians found the trapping around the celebration exciting and while the symbols of Christ were still part of the celebration they were just props with no meaning. Christ in Christmas gave way to Santa Claus in Christmas. And then money became the driving force, not what Jesus did for us. Businesses found they could make money from the sale of gifts and it became all about the gifts under the tree. I certainly remember how excited I was when I woke up Christmas morning to rush out of my room to the living room where our Christmas tree stood (very paltry for so many years because we were poor) to find a gift with my name on it.

In 1870 President Ulysses S. Grant made Christmas a federal holiday, along with New Year’s Day and the 4th of July. We were thought of as a Christian nation because so many Americans identified as Christians. Certainly our founding principles were Christian based. So why not appease the majority of citizens and give them a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And if you didn’t believe in Jesus, enjoy the holiday, have fun, give presents to one another, take advantage of the tradition of Christmas, at least its trappings.

What began as a very personal thing for Christians became harder and harder to keep personal and outside the church it was all about Santa Claus in Christmas.

In 2018, 1,682 years after Emperor Constantin thought up intentions of celebrating Jesus’s birth, those supposedly good intentions are now being trampled upon. Christianity no longer is in favor among the people. I saw this beginning in the late sixties when for the first time in America Christianity was openly being challenged. Today there is a war on Christianity. Many laugh at this idea of war but when you look at the totality of the progressive fight against Christianity I don’t know how else to call it. I’m not sure why you think otherwise when it’s one of the tenants of Marxism/Socialism/Progressivism. Marx always hated religion because religion keeps us from worshiping the State. The State must stand above God.

So-called progressive Christians (that an oxymoron) have joined non-Christians in the attack on Christ in Christmas, certainly any symbols of it outside the church, certainly not to be seen in the public square. What’s the harm of Christian symbols? They support a belief that progressives think harmful to our new modernism, and therefore, must be purged from view lest they corrupt us.

We saw the beginning of this when schools changed the terminology from Christmas to Winter Holiday, almost back to the original Winter Solstice. I’m not going to go through the litany of all the Christian Christmas symbols being made illegal for public consumption, you are all aware of them and my intent isn’t to argue them. So what is my argument?

Christ in Christmas is being shoved out the door replaced in total by Santa Claus in Christmas and even this being replaced by a completely sanitized Winter Holiday. Christians are fighting this because we believe in Christ in Christmas and want to keep it not just an internal church tradition but an open tradition that it had been for hundreds of years. Traditions have meaning as reminders and if we eliminate them so much of our connection with the past will be lost which will change our present and future. 

The loss of symbols, so many of which are being burned at the stake by postmodern Americans is frightening. Many of those torching our symbols don’t understand what they are doing, don’t understand or appreciate the importance of having symbols. But for progressives and postmodernists to fundamentally change America they must destroy our symbols recognizing our past and who we were and are. They want to change who we are by changing who we were and they do this by either wiping out our past or by rewriting our past. Changing that, it’s easy to change who we are.

First, we need to understand that the attack on Christ in Christmas really isn’t about Christmas, it’s about dismantling Christianity and Christmas is one prong in that attack. So I’m doubly upset because of both the attack on my religious faith (Christianity) and on Christmas, the Christ Christmas.

But secondly, if I understand that Christmas is a man-made tradition, not inherent that God asked us to keep, if I walk away from it, if the secular culture does away with it nothing real has been lost. Back in England and in the newly established Massachusetts Colony in the 1600’s the Puritans banned Christmas, at least for the Puritan faithful. Why? Because the celebration was not found in the Bible.

Wait. Christmas is important to celebrate. I found this argument interesting from the website Odyssey in an article written by Katharine Lindskog titled: “Reasons Why Christmas Is Important, No Matter What Religion You May Be.” She writes:

“We all know what Christmas means: lots of gifts and a fat, bearded man being glorified for an entire season. But, some people tend to forget that Christmas actually originated as a way for Christians to celebrate the birth of their savior, Christ. Although there are many people who encourage others to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” you don’t have to ascribe to the Catholic faith in order to enjoy the season. Whatever religion you identify as, Christmas is meaningful in many ways.”

  • Christmas has a way of cheering everyone up.

  • It gives people something to talk about, even if it’s just wishing them “happy holidays” in passing.

  • There are plenty of excuses to spend time with family during the holidays.

  • Christmas movies have a way of bringing people together.

  • Decorating a tree is a tradition that anyone can enjoy.

  • Watching little kids enjoy the magic of Christmas season is thrilling.

  • Christmas tunes are absolutely impossible to get out of your head.

  • Food. A lot of food.

  • Everyone hopes for a white Christmas.

  • And Christmas becomes a time of giving, no matter what religion you may be.

Not one of these feel good points has anything to do with Christ in Christmas. Remember, the definition of Christmas is not have a happy winter holiday, it’s all about Jesus and him alone. Take Christ out of Christmas it disappears. In Santa Claus Christmas Christ has disappeared, and He disappeared a long time ago.

But you know, Christ in Christmas never was. Sure, we have a lot of bullet points of our own why Christ in Christmas is important to us and they are sincere and I believe in them. But we don’t need Christmas for the sincerity of our faith, if we did then Jesus would have instituted it and it would be something to fight for. Yes, it helps to thank God at least once a year for Jesus, for what he did for us, and to strengthen our honor for him, and this, I think was the intent when Christmas was instituted. Oh, we’ve so watered it down with the Santa Claus trappings Christ got lost in the celebration. Yes, we can still find it, for the most part in most churches; then why not keep it there?

You know, it might be good to read Amos 5 and stop for a while on verses 21-24

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;

 your assemblies are a stench to me.

Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

Do you really want to risk these words from Amos who is speaking on behalf of God? Uh, that’s Old Testament stuff. Are you sure? God doesn’t care if we go to church in our flip flops and cutoff jeans, serve coffee and beer and just get down with Him. Really? Are you sure? Just some thoughts. But you might want to think them just in case.

Bottom line: Whatever good we’ve made the tradition of Christmas to be it’s just our man-made celebration, it was not commanded or even suggested by Jesus. I hate losing it to a secular society but if it goes it won’t be God that lost anything. In fact, He might be happy with that.

While you’re thinking about all this don’t forget what I said earlier. It’s not really about Christmas that is being attacked, it’s Christianity, our Christian faith and beliefs, and some of this even from fellow Christians who’ve sold out to secularism. Here is our real fight. Are we willing to fight that fight?

Let me conclude this with a quote from the Declaration of Independence and I’m wondering if we are equally willing to be as brave as these men facing down the power of Britton. 

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Some Americans are already doing this. Many more of us in the near future will be faced with that choice. Which side of the red line will you stand? It will help if we’re not so caught up in man-made institutions rather concentrating on God’s institutions.

Just some thoughts.

Please take the time to read this writing from Dennis Prager, a Jew who supports Christmas, not because he celebrates Christmas but because it is a long established traditional holiday in the United States. “Does Merry Christmas Matter?”