Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Merry CHRISTmas

I realize from my working title that this post could easily be read as one of a myriad of "Keep Christ in Christmas, for Heaven's sake..." rants that populate the 'net this time of year, but that is not truly my intent. My intention is to remind myself of the following truths; that I am blessed to live in this country, that Christ calls me to celebrate His birth regardless of how easy it is, and that I don't need to see His likeness plastered on every storefront to be able to hold in my heart the true, deeply joyful reason for this season.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth, and no amount of political correctness can change its definition. It is what it is. Therefore, I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate the mystery of a child's birth that was foretold for centuries, the magic of a virgin's baby born in a manger, heralded by angels. Above all, I celebrate the power of that child to free me from my sins. That is what I celebrate. It is my joy to live in a nation in which so many other people celebrate with me, and by God's grace I am able to sit here, right now, and write about how amazing He is, how miraculous His birth, how glorious His story.

However, there is a danger in my situation, because I have become very comfortable with this arrangement, and being comfortable can all too often lead to a certain laziness of faith. It is easy to be a Christian in America. Yes, there are those who will attack the idea of Christianity, there are those who will protest the Church, and I may even find my own person slandered (who hasn't felt the deep-cutting sting of being called a "goody two-shoes"?). Of course there are moments where I may be a smidge uncomfortable as a direct result of my faith, but I am free to put a giant plastic light-up Mary and Child in my front yard (if that is my faith declaration of choice) with very little danger of repercussion. God has surely blessed me in my country.

My heart aches a little when some of my countrymen seem to be so deeply offended by the words "Merry Christmas". I like to believe that if I were to move to Israel and found myself being wished a "Happy Hanukkah" at every turn that I would not demand that I be wished Happy Holidays instead. But of course, that illustrates my point marvelously; here, we do, in fact, have the option to make just such a demand. We cannot accept that wonderful nature of our country only when it most suits our need and complain when others exercise their rights. It simply doesn't work.

A wonderful little mind-game I have been playing with myself is imagining what I would do in December if I didn't live somewhere where it was not only legal but status quo to celebrate Christmas. Would I dare to arrange a Nativity on my lawn? Would I light the candles on my Advent wreath with curtains drawn, whispering the Scripture? Would I walk the streets, gaily calling out "Happy Holidays", all the while permeating my words with a silent prayer that those who I was passing might find the light of Christ? I have no idea how the strength of my faith would stand against such a test, and again I say I am blessed to live in such a place as this, such a place that does not force me to choose between my life and my God.

So, because I can, I celebrate Christ's birth. And because other people can, they choose to celebrate different things. As a Christian, I am called to show them the love of Christ. Christ was not a petulant child who would throw a tantrum at the mall when He realized that on His birthday, some people didn't have signs up proclaiming His birth. Christ is love incarnate, a love that recognizes that not everyone has yet found their way. A love that can show us that the best way to help others find Christ is to simply keep on loving them, even when they prefer "Jingle Bells" to "Silent Night", and even if they would rather shop than worship in His house.

My joy as a Christian is to see Him everywhere; in the neon lights of Wal-Mart to the candle-lit church. This season, it isn't my holiday that will be less blessed because some people choose not to celebrate Christ's birth. It's theirs.

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