Every year now, around the first of December we begin hearing of American governments, mostly local, working hard to please "progressives" and "civil libertarians" by ensuring the word "Christmas" and anything related to it is removed from any public venue. Hence, public schools have banned traditional carols, trees are now given the adjective "holiday", manger scenes are prohibited. In NYC there's a battle over billboards. The athiests telling passersby that "You know it's (Christmas) a myth" vs. the Catholic league - "This season celebrate Jesus as the reason".
This story is current on the news and comes from Philadelphia, which ironically is the location of our freedoms' birthplace as Americans. Those freedoms include the right to worship as we please, to be free from governmental interference with our religious choices, and the right to free speech. Yet in Philly it seems the word "Christmas" must come down from a German village scene. It seems the thought is that Christmas is exclusive to Christians (who would ever have thought that?!) and the village should be inclusive.
Why is it that Christmas is so offensive? After all, most of what is disguised as Christmas these days really is not. Of course, the answer is that the foundation of the holiday is a celebration of the birth of Christ. And there is the dig for those wanting to keep any mention of Christmas out of public space. The offense is bringing Christ into the matter.
Some Christians are so outraged they want to mount a crusade. Personally, I feel it is sad to watch our own freedoms so rapidly eroding in a country that feels it necessary to attempt to bring freedom to other countries. While we're fighting for others we're losing the battle at home.
But as a Christ-follower the attacks against religious freedom when Christ is mentioned are no surprise. Jesus told His disciples to expect rejection because of Him. Peter, who heard those words later wrote to the 1st Century believers, "but for the unbelieving, the stone [Christ] that the builders rejected—this One has become the cornerstone, and a stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that trips them up. They stumble by disobeying the message; they were destined for this." (1 Peter 2:7-8 HCSB)
As Americans citizens we may be seeing our rights eroded, but as Christians and citizens of the Kingdom of God we have no such rights. What is happening is part of God's plan for redeeming this world, whether we understand or like it or not.
So, what do we do? Do we surrender "Christmas" to those bent on stamping out any mention of Christ? Well, do we really believe that any government or kingdom can keep Christ out of our hearts and lives? Of course not. Witness what is happening in China, an atheistic communist regime with no freedom of religion. Yet, perhaps the greatest growth of Christianity in the world is taking place behind the "bamboo curtain". How do they deal with Christmas?
The greatest thing we can do is to teach our children about Christ and about faith and live it before them. They may live to see an America where religious freedoms have been totally removed, and they need a strong foundation of faith should that come to pass. Let's hope and pray it does not. But it may.
We can share Christ with our neighbors and friends. Explain to them in conversations that may begin with a simple "Merry Christmas" why Christ is at the heart of your celebration. When the cashier at the store wishes you a PC "Happy Holiday", smile and return their greeting with "And a Merry Christmas to you." Invite your unchurched friends to your church's Christmas concert or Christmas Eve services. There is no greater opportunity to talk about Jesus than the Christmas season.
And while we still have the freedom to speak up, do so in a Christ-like way. Too often in this country it is a vocally loud minority who pressures our officials to bow to their wishes. Vote for those who oppose such nonsense as neutralizing Christmas into a generic holiday. Be a good citizen. But keep in mind, you are also a citizen of another kingdom, and that citizenship is more precious than being a citizen of any nation on this planet.
Now, go out and have a Merry Christmas. May your celebration this year be the best ever, and may the gift of God be passed on by you who believe to your children and your friends. Let's redeem the time. Our purpose on earth is to spread the Good News, not to attack those who don't get it.