Each Christmas, I always hear disappointment about how our culture has taken “Christ” out of “Christmas.” People bemoan how the politically correct greeting “Happy Holidays!” has overshadowed shouting “Merry Christmas!” We no longer buy “Christmas trees,” but instead purchase “Holiday trees.” We send “Holiday cards” in place of “Christmas cards.” So we must reclaim Christ in Christmas, right?
Well, before we drag our family, friends, and neighbors to watch the movie Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, I would like to propose another idea. Actually, it’s not my idea, but I like it.
We have worried about Christmas too much. Christians in an indifferent and even hostile society need to learn cultural jujitsu–to sometimes let the culture push at points where it wants to, and there collapse of its own momentum. This is especially important in our cultural situation, where resistance is so easily itself turned into marketable commodity. T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season” make the message itself into a consumer item.
Clapp does not suggest that we as Christians stop celebrating Christmas. But he wants us to put Christmas in the proper perspective. For Clapp, it is Easter that should be returned to greater prominence within the Christian calendar. “The Christian calendar,” writes Clapp, “like the gospel narrative, builds toward and pivots around the focal events of Christ’s passion and Easter. Recognizing the liturgical year is a large step toward seeing Easter as the main Christian holiday.”
It is Easter, the cross and resurrection, in which we see ourselves in need of salvation. Though spreading Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing, speaking of the crucified Messiah is another thing altogether. The cross speaks of our need to be rescued and the lengths to which God goes to do so. Our salvation, no doubt, involves the Christmas story. However, we must take heed lest we, though worrying about our culture taking Christ out of Christmas, place the cross on the periphery of the gospel story.
If we are really worried about Christ being taken out of Christmas, the we do well to place Easter at it’s proper locale within the Christian holidays. “It is only as we reclaim Easter”, suggests Clapp, “that Christians may best reclaim Christmas.” Therefore, “let the pagans have Christmas as their most significant holiday. Easter is the central Christian holiday. And when we are known for our Easter, then we will have our Christmas back.”
Sounds like a good idea to me! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Easter!