A smarter person than I (I can no longer find the article, sadly, although Jim Wallis makes a lot of points that I’m going for far better than I will) was writing on the War on Christmas – this supposed battlefield of the culture wars in which atheists, agnostics, members of other faiths, and a vast media conspiracy are working together to destroy traditional understandings of Christmas. I must confess, I am entirely in sympathy, and a fierce partisan – a warrior against “Xmas.”
Xmas (which I am here distinguishing from the Christian holiday season that begins on December 25 and ends on January 6, celebrating the birth of Christ) is a terrifying temporal empire – a sprawling, consuming season of commercialized junk that, every year, reaches further and further across the calendar of our nation. I recall, fondly, my mother’s insistence that Christmas music stay out of the CD player until after the dishes were done on Thanksgiving. Now, I hear, the Christmas goods need to be up in the stores the night of Halloween…and they will stay up, summoning Americans with their siren song of recreating the joyous warmth of holidays past, for almost two months.
I like bits of Xmas…Christmas trees and satsumas (or clementines, depending on your region), some of the music, some of the decorations. I am no Grinch, by any means.
But the Whos down in Whoville were, I think, wise enough to note that Christmas was not every day – it was not even a month leading up to the 25th. The whole action of the book takes place in, perhaps, two days.
The reality is, of course, that this is a three-front war. Some liberals and others against both Xmas and Christmas; Xmas doing its level best to swallow Christmas altogether, and Christmas, trying very diligently to preserve its meaning amidst great adversity. There’s also a sub-battlefield of that war – Advent versus Xmas, as Christians try, with great difficulty, to keep alive the anticipation of Advent, the sense of wonder, the hope that precedes the joy.
As Xmas has swallowed more and more of the year in my lifetime, as stores and corporations have pushed the season past its respectable bounds, as non-Christian symbolism have made conquest after conquest, I have, at last, taken up arms. I am a warrior in the war against Xmas, on the side of Christmas and Advent.
I bought no holiday swag, no gifts, no Xmas ornaments or lights, until AFTER Thanksgiving. Surely Black Friday, that most pagan, hideous holiday, surely that is enough for Xmas. Surely it needs no more ground. I also gave Black Friday a pass, and Cyber Monday, too. Then I turned on my King’s Singers Christmas CD, and pulled out my ornaments. Surely a month should be enough.
I invite you to read up on Christmas, and on Advent, too. I invite you to join the armies of the War on Christmas, defending its real understanding – the preparation and celebration of Christ’s birth – against those who would twist it into a worship at the altar of commerce. I invite you to feel the joy that you felt as a child in its proper season.
And remember, also, this. The best of Christmas – the very best – can be found in the truths of the stories we tell our children. Charlie Brown and Dr. Seuss preach Christmas better than a hundred blowhards on TV on either side. Remember Linus telling the story of the shepherds. Remember the Whos down in Whoville, who need NONE of the trappings – not a Merry Christmas or a manger scene or a tree or any of it – to remember who and what they are celebrating. It’s not about the stuff.
It’s about the baby.