It is Christmas time. Christmas is an official U.S. Federal holidy. Most folks get Christmas off. Most folks celebrate Christmas even if they aren’t Christian. So why is Christmas such a bad word these days?
Most people would be stunned if I told them that Christmas really isn’t a Christian holiday. Let’s face it, Christmas is not something the Bible says Christians are to celebrate. Remembering Christ’s death is the closest thing to a celebration officially commanded (the Lord’s Table/Communion, however you call it). Beyond that, the birth of Christ is less important in the Bible than the work and death of Christ.
Further, most of the traditions of Christmas have their roots in pagan customs or other non-Christian things. However, Christians justified themselves by going out of their way to somehow link these things to the Bible. OK, fine. For the sake of this discussion, I’m not going into those areas, but I did want to point out how non-Christian Christmas really is.
That said, Christmas is a holiday we all know. As children, there is no better day than Christmas day. Even if you were poor, most kids got something because their parents loved them. So there are lots of great things about Christmas and I have a lot of happy memories of Christmas.
So why is it that some folks want to remove the term Christmas from our lives?
Obviously, the see the word “Christ” and they freak out. After all, if Christ is the son of God as I and others believe, then in some respects, it means that there IS right and wrong. There are those who don’t like the idea of a right and wrong with no shades of gray. Also, there are those who believe that the term ‘separation of church and state’ is in the constitution, when in fact, the constitution only states the following:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The focus of the 1st amendment is limiting the power of congress. Congress can’t pass a law that says, “Hey! Christianity is the religion of the US!” nor can they pass a law that says, “Hey! Christianity promotes hatred, bigotry, etc., thus it is banned!” Beyond limiting Congress to keep them from promoting a religion, destroying a religion, keeping people from speaking, shutting up the press, or keeping people who want to peaceably assemble, the first amendment does nothing.
So when did ‘separation of church and state’ come into this? Actually, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in 1802 while addressing a Baptist congregation by letter. Jefferson was not a Baptist and he wanted to assure the Baptist that the state would not interfere with the Baptist church. The Baptist were free to practice their religion without fear of the government stopping them. And how would the government (ie: the state) stop them? Congress could pass laws. The first amendment clearly prohibits congress from doing this.
For those who fear anything remotely Christian, the phrase “separation of church and state” is a battle cry. It allows them to ignore what the 1st amendment actually says, and changes the ‘state’ from being Congress (who creates and passes our laws) to anything that is even remotely connected to the government. Further, instead of just limiting what the government can do, they now can limit the expression of religion. That’s why there were no Christian themed floats allowed in Denver CO’s 2004 Parade of Lights.
So we have this knee-jerked fear of the word “Christmas” and anything associated with it, regardless of how truly Christian it is or not. So why does this nation filled with so-called Christians have a problem with “Christmas” when a nation filled with non-Christians doesn’t?
Japan has less than 1% of its population who consider themselves Christian. Despite this, Christmas is a HUGE thing in Japan. While they don’t take Christmas off as we do in the U.S. (they take three days off around the new year), they do put out the Christmas lights, put up the Christmas trees, break out the “Santa-san”, and make the Christmas “kay-key” (which is how the Japanese say “cake”). They do exchange gifts (though not to the extent that we do in the U.S.) and even believe that Christmas eve is the time for romance. So young men and women may confess their love to the object of their desires because the miracle of Christmas will make everything right (see the anime “Love Hina: Christmas Special” to get a great understanding of this aspect).
Granted, the Japanese have different laws and stuff, but how can this non-Christian nation embrace this so-called Christian holiday with no problems? A great many of them know it has something to do with Christianity and Christ (many even know it is supposed to be about the birth of Christ), but it doesn’t seem to bother their own Shinto (Japan’s official religion) or Buddhist beliefs. And yet in the U.S., there is a strong belief that it will bother other people’s beliefs. I guess those folks must not have much faith.
Personally, I do not celebrate Christmas as a Christian anything. As a time for lights, trees, presents, and family I do celebrate, but since Christ was never really part of Christmas, I see no reason to make up a religious reason to celebrate. Still, the holiday is called Christmas and I don’t think it should change just because some weak minded folks are afraid of the term.
And so, I’ll end this by wishing all of you a very non-politically correct Merry Christmas! ^_^