December 13, 2012

Christmas without Christ is meaningless

I am 51 years old. I'm not going to go into all the ways modern Christmas incorporates pagan iconography and ritual. At this point in my life the one Christmas truth I have learned is that it does not matter how a person celebrates Christmas. The only truly important aspect of this season is recognizing it, rejoicing in it, and taking a moment to remember that we are called to love one another, especially those that mistreat us, abuse us, and seek to destroy us. We are called to love our enemies even more than we love our friends and families. After all, it is easy to love those who support you, who lift you up, who give you the strength to make it through the day. Even the most evil, self-centered narcissist has enough common sense to treat the people who support them with love and respect. Loving those who love you proves nothing and Christmas is the one holy day above all others where we are forced to face this hard truth head on and accept the fact that we have repeatedly failed to live up to the standards Christ set for us. This is a good thing, by the way. Failure is how we learn.

I don't hate the modern, militant atheist movement that is seeking to remove Christ from Christmas. I don't pity them, I don't feel sorry for them, and of course, I don't sympathize with them. They are only doing what they feel is right. However, I must point out that if you remove Christ from Christmas, what is left? Seriously, why have a midwinter holy day based on peace, love and joy without Christ? There has never been a midwinter pagan celebration based on peace, love and joy. Every historic pagan midwinter feast, sacrifice, bonfire, and orgy is based on fear. The key difference between the pagan holy days and the Christian celebration of Christmas is that Christmas is the one midwinter holy day based on something other than the fear that the sun will not return and the world will be forever locked in snow and ice. Christmas is a celebration of freedom from earthly fears and the promise of eternity in a paradise so amazing that we who live on this material plane cannot even imagine it. Christmas took all of those pagan traditions of fear, death, and anxiety and transformed them into a celebration of life both here and in heaven. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, the promised savior of both the children of Abraham and the world at large.

That is why it is so deeply and profoundly ironic that so much time, effort, and money is being spent to erase Christ from Christmas. It is richly ironic that after spending two thousand years incorporating pagan iconography into the celebration of Christ's birth the pagans themselves are now seeking to remove Christ entirely and revert back to the fearful, nightmarish imaginative world where midwinter is the death of everything. Alongside that death and inseparable from it rests the horrifying thought that this time the ice might not retreat, the snow might not melt, and the ice age that very nearly drove the human animal to extinction might return to claim our society, our loved ones, and our very lives. Without Christ's birth as the central theme, there is no joyous midwinter celebration. Without Christ there is only the fear of the death, once, eternal, all-encompassing, and permanent. Not just the death of the individual, but the very death of humanity itself.

So let them try. Let them sign petitions, launch legal suits, force Christ out of the schools, off the Fire Department lawn, and out of the department stores. Let the atheists and their pagan allies have their Christless Christmas. Let them remember once and for all just why it is we celebrate Christmas. The power of Christianity, the reason it swept through the pagan lands driving every superstition, every idol, and every magical system before it into extinction is not because of superior weapons, superior technology, or superior culture. Christianity defeated all of those ancient religions for one reason and one reason only: Christianity is the only religion based on hope for a better world both here and in eternity. Not Buddhism, not Islam, not any form of animism, not Wiccan ritual nor Druidic practice, only Christianity is based on the belief that God himself came to his creation as a baby child set asleep among the livestock in order to bring directly to us the one gift no other religion has ever dared to offer: eternal life in partnership with the creator.

So I am not the least bit worried about the "war on Christmas". Even if they succeed, the only thing they will find is a hollow victory, a meaningless consumer holiday, and a return to the fear of death that drove humanity out of the simplicity of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and into the sweat, toil, and downward spiral of agriculture, massive warfare, tyranny, and "higher civilization". If they remove Christ from Christmas it will take less than a single generation before they are begging for us to change it back. Without Christ, there is no Christmas. Without Christ there is only a tyrannical priest guiding the ignorant in a fearful ritual to reignite the sun and bring back the spring.