Seems like there’s a lot of talk on American news these days about The War On Christmas. I don’t know if regular people actually believe in this or whether it’s just something that the cable news channels drum up to manufacture ratings, but certain news personalities seem to have confused the changing cultural landscape of our society with an active assault against God Almighty.
My view is that if your god is weakened or threatened by the changing cultural standards of the country you live in, he’s a pretty puny, tribalistic god. A god you believe in for much the same reasons you root for your favorite sports team—because you live close to it (this is a red-blooded Angels fan writing, so I know all about tribalistic loyalties). Anyway, a weak god. Not the living God of the universe whose immense power spoke all things into existence. No, the real God is not worried on His throne, His plans are not threatened, and His will is not thwarted by any so-called “war on Christmas”.
In the end, all this talk really boils down to fear. Fear that our country is headed in the wrong direction. Fear that God is going to strike us down nationally for “turning our backs on Him” and “taking Him out of our schools” (never mind the fact that God no longer judges “the nations” as a whole, but writes his law onto each individual heart). Fear that the ideals and values of It’s A Wonderful Life are being replaced with raunch, crudity, and disrespect.
I understand these fears, and I respect them. I also worry about the coarsening of our society and the fraying of our communities’ bonds. But let’s not conflate these cultural issues with the idea that God is in trouble and needs our help to save him. And if there’s to be a war on Christmas in America, let’s make it a war against the commercialization and crass consumerism that it’s devolving into. That’s a war I’m signing up for.
In any event, we shouldn’t be frightened to see our country changing. We are called to be ambassadors of Jesus. And what is the defining characteristic of an ambassador? That they live in a foreign land. So whether there really is a war on Christmas, whether our nation does actually turn hostile to Christianity, none of this should matter. After all, Jesus wasn’t born into the dominant culture; in fact, his culture was dominated by the world’s sole superpower at the time. And His way of faith was certainly not the dominant way of his nation; in fact, it was so counter-cultural that it got him crucified.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a real war on Christmas, though. In fact, the very first Christmas was, in the cosmic realm, nothing like the serene, tranquil nativities we often think about. It was anything but a silent night:
Something important appeared in the sky. It was a woman whose clothes were the sun. The moon was under her feet, and a crown made of twelve stars was on her head. She was about to give birth, and she was crying because of the great pain.
Something else appeared in the sky. It was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and a crown on each of its seven heads. With its tail, it dragged a third of the stars from the sky and threw them down to the earth. Then the dragon turned toward the woman, because it wanted to eat her child as soon as it was born.
The woman gave birth to a son, who would rule all nations with an iron rod. The boy was snatched away. He was taken to God and placed on his throne. The woman ran into the desert to a place that God had prepared for her. There she would be taken care of for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
Michael Fights the Dragon
A war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels were fighting against the dragon and its angels. But the dragon lost the battle. It and its angels were forced out of their places in heaven and were thrown down to the earth. Yes, that old snake and his angels were thrown out of heaven! That snake, who fools everyone on earth, is known as the devil and Satan. Then I heard a voice from heaven shout,
“Our God has shown his saving power, and his kingdom has come!
God’s own Chosen One has shown his authority.
Satan accused our people in the presence of God day and night.
Now he has been thrown out!
Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives.
The heavens should rejoice, together with everyone who lives there.
But pity the earth and the sea, because the devil was thrown down to the earth.
He knows his time is short, and he is very angry.”
When the dragon realized that it had been thrown down to the earth, it tried to make trouble for the woman who had given birth to a son. But the woman was given two wings like those of a huge eagle, so that she could fly into the desert.
This made the dragon terribly angry with the woman. So it started a war against the rest of her children. They are the people who obey God and are faithful to what Jesus did and taught.Revelation 12 (CEV)
In the spiritual realm the birth of Jesus was more like the first troop transport landing at Normandy than anything else. I know that when people are going through suffering, tragedy, loneliness and loss, it can feel like Christmas isn’t for them. Like Christmas is only for the happy. The true Christmas story, though, is that it is precisely for the broken.
Jesus was born into a broken world. A dangerous world. A world full of blood and fear and evil. He was born into a world where precious, innocent children were slaughtered at the whim of a dark, troubled soul.
In short, Jesus was born into our world.
And after some of the things that have happened over the last few weeks, that’s exactly the kind of Jesus we need.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.
What Can I Do?
There are some great ways to help join the war on Christmas and make real the fact that it’s about more than getting stuff. One of our favorites is to join the Advent Conspiracy. Their whole mission is to reorient our focus on what Christmas is supposed to mean to a follower of Jesus. Their motto is:
One of the things our family has begun doing is to devote a substantial amount of our Christmas gift-buying budget for a “present for Jesus”. Each year we go through the World Vision gift catalog and decide as a family what to donate to. World Vision is a wonderful, highly-respected charity devoted to providing aid and relief to the world’s suffering. Through them you can buy milk-producing animals for hungry families, water-filtration systems and wells for villages with no clean water, provide literacy programs and education for children, protect young boys and girls from human trafficking, and more. It’s a great way to get kids involved, as you can make decisions as a family to give money to areas that speak to you the most.
World Vision isn’t the only place to give a present to Jesus, of course. Samaritan’s Purse is another great relief organization, as is Habitat For Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross and countless others.