Christmas Alterations and Christmas Restorations
One would think that history is history- factual and indisputably clear. Yet we all know that at a family gathering, a review of our own family history has as many perceptions and angles as there are people in the room. History has a subjective element to it. How we all believe the Disney vacation went is a matter of each person’s perspective- carefree children, responsible parents, funding father or tag along nanny. Each has their unique take on whether it was fun, a burden, restful or frenetic. However, the fact that there was a Disney vacation should be beyond dispute- objective and indisputably clear part of history.
That is generally the way history works. The events are clearly marked and recorded- the Magna Carta was signed; the Romans did, in fact, invade Gaul; Lincoln was shot in a theater. However, the historian’s take on those events shapes our views of them. Their meaning and the reasons behind the developments are matters of interpretation and perspective. That is how most history works. There are the objective activities and their more nuanced reasons and outcomes.
None of this seems to be the case, in contemporary western culture, when God is in the picture. In cases involving religion, even the factual parts of history become obscured or eliminated altogether by the secular historian. It is not enough to question the reasons that Christians or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists did certain things. Much history is told as though there were no Hindus or Christians or Muslims or Buddhists at all. Or, if they did exist, they made virtually no impact upon (or negative if any) history. Imagine taking a world history class including American, Asian and European history, containing of the countless events over the past 3,000 years and yet not mentioning religion other than in a benign, inconsequential or negative context. Unfortunately, that happens throughout our schools. Though many of history’s events were precipitated by faith, conviction and in quest for freedom of worship or in flight from the oppression of worship, these events are either eliminated or mutated beyond historically objective recognition. It is not just untrue, but sad.
And here we are at Christmas, or Winter Holiday. We went from Christmas gift giving, modeled by the gift of all gifts (Jesus), to A Day of Sharing for non-descript gift giving. The Christmas tree (rife with meaning) is a Tree of Celebration (rife with ornaments). The carol, heralding the coming Christ, is replaced by singing of cheer, often accompanied by the spirits inducing cheer rather than of the Spirit bringing cheer. In fact, the objective part of Christmas is an advent season filled with and focused upon Jesus Christ- inescapable. However, it is amazing how every symbol can be altered (tree becomes sharing instead of everlasting life), every reason shifted (the birth of Christ for a feast for family), every practice usurped (the gift we receive which could never be earned with the gifts we buy at Best Buy and wrap in boxes) and every character replaced (Jesus defers to Santa).
Don’t let history devolve. Don’t capitulate. This is not about religious fundamentalism or proselytizing or state sponsored religion. It is just about keeping the reasons, symbols, practices and characters intact. It is a matter of honesty with history. If a person doesn’t like the history, they should not celebrate it. They are free to ignore it, but should not try to erase it. For those who have been changed by the historical reality of Jesus in this world, his birth (a matter of history) should be celebrated from the roof tops.