Did you ever have one of those “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” stickers? I remember when they first came out. It was in the early 80s. It was around that time they started making a fuss about the secularization of Christmas. Our parish was handing them out. My father refused to put one on the bumper of his car because he felt it wouldn’t make sense eleven months out of the year. We did however have sweatshirts made with the phrase stamped on them. As soon as the temperature dropped in Miami below 75 degrees, they were pulled out of mothball laden boxes and worn. While I agree completely with the message, I probably wouldn’t wear the sweatshirt today (it doesn’t fit).
I confess that a smidgen of Grinch is aroused in me whenever Christ is taken out of Christmas. It clouds what is definitely at the core of the season. Let’s face it, without Christ, you are simply left with “mas.” And I know the argument: out of respect for all of those who do not believe or share our faith, you should remove the disrespectful child from his manger, close down the stable, reroute the Magi, and cancel the star. But is it possible that there is another reason why many have suddenly become aware of religious sensibilities? Do you suppose that maybe money has something to do with it?
That’s right, I would argue that to a significant degree, greed and not respect has shifted the focus of Christmas from the little town of Bethlehem to all other cities of the world. Think about it, can you imagine how much money would be lost if Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, the religiously indifferent, and none believers didn’t celebrate Christmas? All the major department stores, credit card companies, and airlines would take serious hits on Black Friday and every day leading up to the 25th of December. Jesus poses a serious threat to our economy.
So instead, the birth of Christ has been replaced with visions of sugarplums that dance in our heads and cute reindeer who fly through the sky. And that’s crafty, because secular society is not replacing Jesus with evil monsters or vicious practices, obvious red flags that awaken too much suspicion. No, Jesus is being replaced with heartwarming scenes of families gathered together around a tree, episodes of sharing with faithful friends that are dear to us. This way, everyone can buy into Christmas. Ultimately everyone, whether a Christian or not, whether a believer or not, can be roused by a spirit of giving that requires the purchasing of a present or two for those whom we love.
A few years ago, I had an argument with a very close friend who sent his company’s Christmas card to me. It said: “Wishing you the very best this holiday season.” I felt comfortable enough to call him and ask what he meant by “holiday.” See, in our modern-day language, “holiday” simply means a period of time where you get off work or school because of a particular occasion significant to some group of people. Veterans Day is a holiday and so is Labor Day. So why, I asked, don’t I get a card from his company on those days? He conceded the point and admitted, “I didn’t want to offend any of my clients who are not Christians.” In other words, I didn’t want to lose their business.
Well, the fact is the word “holiday” is derived from the Old English and it means “holy day” and only God is holy. Everything else is made holy by association. So, we even betray language when we try to remove God from the picture. Here’s my suggestion: let’s keep Jesus in the picture. Let’s focus on the miracle of Bethlehem. Let’s wish Jesus on the world and give presents because the greatest present has already been given in Jesus. Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas by celebrating the holidays, celebrate Christmas.