The commercialization of Christmas has long been a concern for American Christians, and the overt attempts to secularize the happy holiday have been a minor annoyance in recent years. Even Garrison Keillor, no staunch right-wing Christian fundamentalist, recently complained about the continuing attempts of non-Christians to subvert, co-opt or simply join in the festive Christian spirit of Christmas. And while I can't help but agree with him on the aesthetic abomination of unitarians attempting to rewrite "Silent Night," I think it is a mistake to bar non-Christians from joining us in celebrating the birth of Man's Lord and Savior.
And if they don't wish to celebrate it, so be it. Let them go to work on Friday and pretend Christmas is a day like any other, if they like.
For we were all non-Christians once. Regardless of whether one is raised in a Christian home and played a starring role as Baby Jesus in the church nativity play or in an atheist house where the only shrines are to Karl Marx, Karl Popper or Chairman Mao, sooner or later one must make the conscious choice to humble oneself before the King of Kings and accept that he is, in fact, Lord and Savior. For most people, particularly successful and intelligent people, it is not reason, nor science, nor evil that stands in the way of accepting Jesus Christ; it is pride. And it is, I think, perhaps a little easier to humble yourself and repent of your misdeeds if you understand that the Prince of Peace was not afraid to humble himself so men might be saved.
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In entering a beautiful church in northern Italy, one's eye is immediately caught by large letters embossed in the curved marble wall at the far end. E IL VERBO SI FECE CARNE E VENNE AD ABITARE IN MEZZO A NOI. The stark beauty of the message is enough to bring tears to many a non-believer's eyes. The Word became flesh and came to live amongst us. This is not only the true meaning of Christmas, it is the only meaning of Christmas. The presents, the toys, the traditions and the joys are all mere reflections of that meaning.
There is no need to fear for Christmas. It will survive as long as man survives, for man cannot live without hope, and hope is precisely what Jesus Christ provides us. In celebrating the hope represented by his birth during a dark and evil time, we are reminded that no matter how dark our times may become, no matter how entrapped in evil our lives may be, even the smallest hope is capable of triumphing in the end. And there is no need to fear for Christianity, either. It does not matter if one billion or one dozen individuals declare Jesus Christ to be Lord; it is just as true in either case. As for the commercialization of the holiday, it does not matter if Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's birth by giving gifts of oranges or digital gadgets, for it is the same Savior whose birth we are celebrating on Christmas Day.
I wish a joyful, peaceful and Merry Christmas to you all.