Yesterday while traveling along coastal Maine I passed what looked like a church building with a big sign outside proclaiming “pictures with Santa”. I was moving along and didn’t see if it was an active church or just a church like building turned into something else.
What struck me was the juxtaposition of a religious building and Santa. This symbolic joining crystallized in my mind what I’ve know for a long time; Santa and Christmas are perfect representatives of our cultural religion. If we step aside and pay attention we can see it plainly. The Holiday celebration now fully represents our cultural values and beliefs. These include the necessity to buy things, the spiritual satisfaction of gift giving and getting, the appropriateness of over-spending to name a few.
A colleague of mine shared the news story at the end of this blog. Briefly, the Hillsboro, NH, Christmas Tea was cancelled after the pastor of the church hosting the event asked to read the Christmas story from the gospels along with “The Night Before Christmas.” The quote below comes from an article published by the Concord Monitor (see the link below):
"Andrea Kaubris, administrative assistant to the Chamber of Commerce, said sponsoring a religious event would violate the Chamber's bylaws, which require it to remain nonsectarian. Even though the holiday is Christian, Kaubris said the celebration is "a commercialized treatment of Christmas just because that's what the whole Christmas season has come to. It's about the kids, and it's about the merchants in town."
Rather than bemoan the loss of Christmas to the culture, I suggest we reclaim it in our homes and churches. Let the culture have its Holiday celebration, but let us offer something different. Let us offer Christ, Emmanuel. Leave Santa and all his trappings to the culture and offer the real Hope of the World to our communities.
Let us use this time as an opening to share the good news. For many know the secular holiday does not satisfy their spiritual need. Buying lots of things does not fill the hole in our soul. Christmas parties does not quench our longing for true community. Mistletoe does not meet our needs for intimate relationships.
We are bearers of the light of Christ, heralds of Hope, voices crying out in the wilderness for the people of our community and world. There is still time in this season to find ways to share the coming of Christ to others. How will you celebrate Emanuel? Will others see the difference?
Grace & Peace,