December 19, 2010

The Reason for Christmas Lives!

by Donald G. Mashburn

The anti-Christmas war has intensified. In North Bergen, New Jersey, the American Atheists recently posted a large billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, with the words: “You KNOW it’s a Myth,” and below, “This Season, Celebrate REASON.”

The sign mocking the Christmas holiday prompted the Catholic League of New York to counter with its own sign on the New York side of the Lincoln Tunnel, with the words: “You Know it’s Real! This Season, Celebrate Jesus.”

The atheists’ campaign against Christmas is one of the more confrontational efforts to remove or diminish Christ as the “Reason for the Season.” In recent times, some of the biggest retailers have tried their hand at political correctness at Christmas time, and later decided it was too expensive when their customers let them know they didn’t like it.

Some of the biggest retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Target have tried to remove greetings such as “Merry Christmas,” displays containing manger scenes, and other traditional signs of Christmas. But the retailers seemed to have seen the light and have now charted a safer course. They now know what Christmas means to some of their customers. But only after they were smartly “bah-ed and humbugged” by customers who didn’t like the retailers’ avoidance of “Christmas” in their ads and store displays.

But the anti-Christ campaigns of groups like the American Atheists and the ACLU have cranked up the anti-Christmas war and are pouring money into the effort. And to the more intolerant, Nativity scenes in public places still bring knee-jerk reactions. Many public schools avoid traditional signs – even colors, in some cases – of Christmas.

Among the more politically correct, depicting or naming Christ in Christmas plays, students’ drawings, and banners are still enough to bring on a case of the vapors for the anti-Christ-ers and their supporters. They and their allies have in some places hijacked the traditional Christmas season.

The hijacking, combined with the commercial orgy that has distorted what Christmas used to mean to most of us have caused Christmas to lose its meaning for many. It’s no wonder that in the minds of many children – and, sadly, many adults – the real meaning and substance of Christmas have become blurred.

The objective of the anti-Christmas groups, like the ACLU, the National Education Association (NEA), and their ilk is to ban any sign of Christ in schools and public places. However, supporters of the Constitution and Christian groups like the Catholic League of New York are pushing back.

These pro-Christmas groups know that the real substance of Christmas – the Christ of Christmas – is not a banner, a tree, or a manmade display. The real meaning of Christmas is what it means to those who believe that Jesus came from God to die on the cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the world.

Those believers not only believe in God and His Christ, they also believe in a Constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion, and they oppose efforts to discriminate against them for doing so. They object to the discriminatory actions of school administrators banning or prohibiting anything with Christian significance, while approving decisions to permit Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Islamic displays.

When anti-Christian activists protest hearing or seeing any public display or mention of the name of Jesus, Christians do feel discriminated against. They see no sense in banning “Merry Christmas” from schools. One school reportedly removed “Christmas” from its calendar so students would not be exposed to the “Christ” part of “Christmas.”

Christian hymns, such as “Silent Night,” can put some school administrators, and a few anti-Christian parents, into a tizzy.

In world of political-correctness-gone-goofy, “Happy Holidays” fits the season of commercialism better than “Merry Christmas.” But only short years ago, Christmas had special meaning, and without apology or fear of opposition we celebrated the coming of the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace, “Immanuel, ... God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

We would live in a better world, and country, if those who are cynical and intolerant of the Christ of Christmas were to take a close look at this Jesus who willingly suffered the agony and shame of the cross to atone for our sins.

The empty tomb gave irrefutable and timeless testimony that He was who He said He was: the Son of God. And the empty tomb was evidence that God accepted His perfect sacrifice, and that He was worthy in God’s sight to be the Redeemer of imperfect mankind.

This historical, resurrected Christ does not live in the commercial tinsel and glitter of the secularized “Christmas Season.” He lives in the hearts of changed men, women and children whose lives have been transformed by the teachings, life, death and resurrection of the babe born in a manger on that first Christmas night.

His miracles have continued in divinely transformed lives, from the first martyr, Stephen, and the martyred apostles, to those who witness and stand for what’s right today. These changed lives attest to the divinity, power and real meaning of the Christ whose coming we celebrate on Christmas.

Christmas without Christ is empty. Against His life, death and resurrection, the worldly trappings of Christmas fade to nothing. If we see Christmas only as a time to acquire “stuff,” we rob ourselves of the real meaning of Christmas. The stuff acquired at Christmas, and in life, is of no lasting significance – a one-day garage sale will take care of most of it after we’re gone.

What is of eternal importance is the real meaning of Christmas: Christ came; He loved us enough to suffer and die for us; He arose from the grave, and that makes all the difference for believers, now and for eternity!

And the big news, now, is that He’s coming again!

And neither the American Atheists, nor school superintendents, nor the anti-God types that threaten lawsuits by ACLU lawyers can change that.