By Craig Funston
I think Christmas is one of the “most wonderful times of the year.” There is something about the genuine goodwill and heartfelt wishes that makes me feel really good, whether I’m giving or receiving. It’s the time of year to slow down, play games, and do all those family things.
I believe lurking within each of us is that longing to express the joy of Christmas. I’m not reversing my views on human frailty and fallen nature, not for a second. I’m simply saying that there is an element within each of us that wants to rise to the occasion of giving and serving.
I hope you’re with me in that you lament the crass commercialization of the season—which now actually covers parts of three seasons (end of summer, fall and beginning of winter). Just a little over the top for my liking.
On the other hand, you may resent the religious overtones of the big day. As “religious” as I am, my worldview is based on fact (followed by faith), so I have no issue with the religious-historical element to this grand season. Others like me see that the centre of Christmas is Christ (eg., CHRIST-mas) and His birth. Historical facts don’t lie, so they don’t need defending.
I do see the problem of the secularization of the season, but I am concerned about the cold abstention from anything joyous, fun, exciting—apparently based in the biblical side of things. These are two extreme views of this season. I’m scrambling to find the spiritual equivalent of the term “holy(?) bah humbug.”
I humbly suggest that the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle, a “balanced approach to Christmas,” if you will.
”Crass commercialization” is a strong term, and maybe that is over the top when it comes to this great time. Which brings me to the business side of the season: being a bit of a businessman myself, I get it. Anything that gives the economy a boost, generates employment, spurs further financial incentives, is good.
“Good,” of course, so long that there is nothing immoral, unethical, or illegal taking place.
Christmas trees in Walmart in August may be an irritation, but it’s not immoral. Christmas ornaments on Costco just after Hallowe’en is a stretch, but it’s not unethical. Spending hordes of money at Christmas may be stupid, but it’s not illegal.
I have other issues with the secularization (a cousin of commercialization) of the big day. As you know, I sincerely believe that the revisionism that is taking place in our textbooks, news outlets, and including holidays, is a far greater threat than whether I can (or cannot) get Christmas lights at Home Depot in early September.
The polar opposite response, while not as dangerous, is equally unfortunate. No trees, no lights, no gifts, maybe even no turkey. That is fine and well, but please, don’t use faith or Scripture as your motivation! Both faith and Scripture are key to understanding what Christmas is all about, and there is no place for extremes.
Somewhere in the middle is the true spirit of Christmas: It’s a time for giving , games, and gifts—probably in that order. Not excessive or expensive, of course, but a balanced approach.
Whether you believe (or care) that there was a Babe in Bethlehem, I do not know. Secular historians recorded His birth; songwriters (eg., Handel and Beethoven) wrote about it over the following decades. I do not know if His birth anything more than factual, but that is a great place to start.. What I do know is that they acknowledged it.
We’re just talking about history, people, not even religion. I struggle with the cavalier approach to historical facts, and worse, the misleading interpretations of those facts. And then there is the really frightening thing, namely, the lame justification of those inaccurate interpretations that leads to the mess we’re in now.
You can celebrate the season without being overtly religious. Hardly, but it can be done. Christmas, first and foremost, is about a special birth of a special Person. It’s a historical fact. Ignore it all you want, but just don’t try to stop me.
You can leave the Christ-child out of your Christmas festivities, your songs, even your holidays. Or you can likewise ignore the true spirit of the season by moping about its crass commercialization and empty secularization.
I say let’s celebrate it in a balanced, simple way.
Maybe I should have started this column earlier in the season, like at the end of August.