As a child, I remember Christmas being festive and joyous. It was a time filled with sparkling decorations not only at home but also in every store we entered, with the air filled with Christmas music and unafraid store clerks wishing each of their customers a Merry Christmas.
This year, however, I am continually asking myself, “What has happened to Christmas”?
There are limited holiday decorations of any kind in stores; not much music is being played in public places and of course no one says “Merry Christmas” as you hand over your hard earned money for gifts.
The first week of December one of my favorite chain stores reduced their holiday décor offerings to a small corner of a carpeted area with “40% off” signs everywhere. This is the same store where less than 10 years ago, I purchased an enormous amount of glittery items that decorate our home each and every year. Their Christmas decorating section used to be almost as large as their general home decorating area and now it was so small, I actually had to search the store to see if they had even decorated at all. “Minimal decorations” would be a generous description, at best.
In an act of what feels like rebellion, I say “Merry Christmas” every opportunity I get. Our family is also filling this void, which society is creating, by listening to Christmas music everywhere possible–in the car, in the house, whenever we can enjoy the sounds of the holidays.
During one of these musical moments I heard Faith Hill’s rendition of “Where are You Christmas” and I listened intently as I realized how true the sentiment of the song is in today’s growingly sterile society.
The first verse of the song rang in my head:
Where are you Christmas
Why can’t I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can’t I hear music play?
My world is changing
Does that mean Christmas changes too?
I began thinking, do holidays change? Do we personally change? Or does society change everything?
The idea of society changing everything became intriguing to me.
Society today is so overly stimulated by television, radio, social media and so many other “instruments of information” that it is difficult to get a thought in edgewise, unless we discipline ourselves to take time to really think about what we believe.
This idea of “who we are”–instead of who the world wants us to be–is aptly exemplified by my dear friends who still have “regular” cell phones instead of smartphones. When the conversations have arisen as to why they haven’t updated their phones, their responses are usually, “I don’t want to be that ‘connected’”. They want the ability to spend time with themselves or others in their own way, without the disruptions that all the rest of us compete with each day.
By making this decision, they are their own people. They haven’t succumbed to having to be who the world describes as the “it” person. I applaud people who know what they believe and why they believe it.
With all the fighting over nativity scenes and crosses, it takes what should be a beautiful, peaceful time of year and turns it into a political/social nightmare. And yet, history recalls that one of the main reasons America was created was to establish freedom of religion and the right to worship God, free of tyranny and ruling classes. That means that while someone can’t put up a Nativity scene at a Mosque in order to try to push Christianity on Muslims, it also means an atheist can’t demand a Nativity scene be taken down because they don’t believe in God or Christ.
Instead, in today’s society it isn’t not about how my family and I would like to celebrate a particular time of year; it’s becoming more about conforming and not offending the louder voices screaming in the Town Square. Ironically, this attitude takes away from my independence and freedoms, and makes ideas and practices from everyone else the focus instead.
How horrible it must be for a store clerk who desperately wants to say “Merry Christmas” to their customers yet is relegated to either “Happy Holidays” or sadly, no acknowledgement of the season at all, grounded in the fear of misstating their employer’s wishes and possibly losing their job.
In the 1700’s, freedom of worship was related to worshiping the God in the Bible. Today in America, worship takes on different gods: the God who created man, the “gods” whom man has created, and the “worship” of not worshiping or believing in God at all. Whichever area any of us find ourselves, restricting the freedom to place a nativity scene in a front yard or to say the actual words “Merry Christmas” takes all the men and women who died for our freedoms back onto the battlefields and makes their deaths in vain.
As conservative Americans, it is time to call all of us up to ‘active duty’ to reclaim our rights.
If the stories in recent months about crosses and Nativity scenes haven’t caused you to become uncomfortable, then maybe you have given in and are under the assumption that things will never change. When the battle cry of the leader of our great nation is “equality” and “level playing fields”, why shouldn’t those of us who believe in religious equality fight for our equality and level playing fields, too?
I remember as a young college student when a movie that many “older” adults at church disagreed with due to its offensive content about the life of Jesus Christ. They circulated petitions to try to prevent the movie from being shown in theaters. My question to them was, “Why just a petition?” Their answer was, “We will show these people love and respect which will change their minds.” Really? It didn’t work; the movie was still released.
Growing up, that seemed to be the default reaction to everything, to “love people” into doing whatever conservatives and Christians disagreed with and that would solve the problems.
Look where we are today.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I DO NOT advocate or agree with the behaviors of groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church and their radical protests. The only thing that type of extremist behavior does is give conservatives and Christians bad names and makes our arguments appear stupid and ungrounded.
What I do believe is that if we really want to be able to express our love and remembrance for Jesus at Christmas (or any day of the week), we need to make smart arguments, in respectable ways, to protect our religious freedom. If we don’t, we will eventually move into a society where atheists and other non-Bible based religious organizations will have scrubbed our society “clean” to a point where no public acknowledgment of our beliefs will be allowed and we will have lost our country and our freedom.
So is the Christmas season all about the Christmas lights and music, or the “Merry Christmas” greeting we exchange in public, or is it about saving our religious freedoms that were boldly fought and died for on so many bloody battlefields? To me, it’s all of the above. It starts with the holidays and moves into our every day lives. And what we need to keep in mind is that this is being done so subtly—without much of a fight—that someday instead of singing, “Where are You Christmas?” our grandchildren may be asking, “What Were You Christmas?”