12.23.2008

The reason for the season

It's become a reflex in many Christian circles to remind revelers that "Jesus is the reason for the season." Our judicatory a couple years ago helped to sponsor local radio ads urging people to "Keep the Christ in Christmas." The "reason for the season" rhetoric often gets tied into the "War on Christmas" promoted by conservatives who sense a slippery slope being descended when businesses wish us "Happy Holidays."

I'm comfortable with the marketplace taking the Christ out of "Christmas" the cultural celebration. There is so much consumerist pressure on the holiday that adding a veneer of religiosity to it actually hurts the cause of Jesus. Does our spending really need to be identified as "Christian"? Isn't it enough that, with all the media gloom and doom about lackluster Christmas sales, it seems patriotic and in our self interest? Hearing a clerk say "Merry Christmas" -- ever hear a denizen of commerce say "Blessed Christmas" to you? -- may keep the holiday spending within my comfort zone, but is that a really good place to be comfortable?

Fernando Gros has an interesting post today asking, provocatively to some Christians, "What if there is more than one reason for the season?" (HT: The Corner) No, he is not watering down the theological import of Emmanuel, God with us, but rather pointing out that the dialogue about Christmas that the culture starts each year might be one we want to engage rather than rush in to "correct" by identifying why our reason is right and theirs is wrong.

Christmas is the center of our faith -- Love comes down and moves into our neighborhood, next door to incomplete, wrong-headed and broken people like you and me. The incarnation is the only ground we have for hope, which is sorely needed in times such as these. Jesus is the reason for our hope, and the season. And I think he wants us to stop cringing when the Grinch and Rudolph enter the story and people want Santa to bow before the manger in church, and engage a culture that thinks that consumption is love. With our story of hope and acceptance, we can show the world what love really is. And that, as the Beatles said, money can't buy it.

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