Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lagniappe: Keeping the Christ in Christmas - What does it mean to keep the "Christ" in Christmas? One hears it a lot these days. At the very basic level, I think when folks say this they intend two things: (1) to protest in some way the hyper-commercialization and materialism of the season at the expense of the religious meaning of the holiday; and (2) to attack a perceived "politically correct" attitude that questions whether government promotion of the religious symbolism of the event violates the principle of the separation of church and state.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think these two intentions undergirding the phrase are somewhat misplaced -- at least for me. On the one hand, they both seem to come out of a confrontational or reactionary motivation. They're both rather scrooge-like and embittered motivations, if you ask me. They certainly are not celebratory motivations.

For me, the phrase bears a positive, celebratory meaning, as well as a moral challenge. First off, whether the ACLU protests the exhibit of a nativity scene on public property shouldn't have any bearing on whether I am keeping Christ in my Christmas. Keeping the Christ in Christmas means that I need to make sure that what is front-and-center for me during Advent is Christ, and not some distracting preoccupation with what City Hall or the ACLU is doing. And second, if I keep Christ front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season, I should be obligated to keep the "least of my brothers" front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season also.

So, for me, at the end of it all, the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means that I should strive to exhibit my solidarity with the poor and dispossessed of this world all the more forcefully and to work towards a justice for them worthy of God's becoming flesh in the birth of Jesus and worthy of Jesus' life-long embrace of the marginalized. That's what the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means for me. What does it mean for you?

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