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My Two Cents

This week, I have stolen from my own collection of columns. May your holidays be meaningful, whether or not they bear the name of Christ. rp


Every year there seems to be a new effort from some part of the church to use the word “Christmas” instead of the more politically    correct “Holiday” to describe all of the celebrating that goes on in December. This is more than a little ironic.


Consider this. Tertullian (160-230 CE), an early Christian leader and prolific writer,  complained that too many fellow Christians had copied the Pagan practice of adorning their houses with lamps and wreaths of laurel at Christmas time. The English Puritans      condemned the heathen traditions of the  decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated that sacred event. In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, OH, appears to have been the person responsible for decorating the first Christmas tree in an American Church. His parishioners condemned the idea as a Pagan practice. Some even threatened the pastor with harm. Isn’t it interesting that, now, followers of Jesus are urging people to call decorated trees, “Christmas” trees, not “Holiday” tree. Our history suggests they should really be called “Pagan” trees.


The other irony is what happens when pressure is applied to stores and shops to attach Christmas to their efforts to sell us things. I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmastime as much as anyone. But, really now, wouldn’t it be more likely that Jesus would prefer for Lowe’s Hardware Store to call their spread of lighted reindeer and candy canes, a holiday display? I’m not sure Jesus really cares whether or not I buy the iPod at Best Buy, no matter how it gets displayed. He might also prefer that his name be removed from the displays erected by the town council that just  voted to cancel funding for the local homeless shelter.


Christmas lights and displays are wonderful. Sometimes, the more pagan they are the better. But the purity of Christmas lies within our own hearts, not in what we call our displays or concerts. If Christmas is under attack, it isn’t from those who are trying to be politically correct. It’s from Christians who forget. In order to find the baby Jesus the shepherds had to go around the Inn, where the “holiday” party was in full swing, to a quiet, peaceful, unexpected place. As long as we remember that ours is a similar search,   Christmas will be safe.






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