Borrowing Christmas

According to the children’s cartoons that my kids are always so eager to watch, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of special hope and joy, when we should help others, treasure family and friends, and give gifts.

And who can argue with that? Certainly not me.

But an obvious question is almost always left unanswered: Why? Why is Christmas characterized by all these things?

Similar questions, in fact, are good one to ask in many other circumstances this time of year. For example, I recently ran across an article suggesting that atheists are in need of more compelling holiday symbols. But why do atheists need holiday symbols at all? After all, a holiday (“holy day”) originally implied something worth setting apart and celebrating. But what would that be, given an atheistic worldview?

I don’t mean to say that atheists and others who don’t embrace historic Christianity should be barred from enjoying the Christmas season. What I will argue, however, is that they lack a compelling or consistent reason to do so. Christmas, severed from its connection to Christ, is a nicely wrapped box with nothing valuable inside. To celebrate it from that standpoint is to borrow capital from a story you believe to be bankrupt.

But in the end, it makes perfect sense for many to continue looking forward Christmas even when they learn their parents, not Santa, ate the cookies they set out on Christmas Eve. There is a reason to gather with family and friends, to help someone in need, to give gifts, to hope for a better world, to offer a simple holiday greeting.

Because nearly 2000 years ago God mysteriously became one us, his power and glory hidden in humility, born into the straw and smell of a manger. It was the stunning first chapter in a story that would culminate in a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

In the meantime, then, I’m glad for anyone to observe the Christmas holiday, trusting that its very first proclamation will somehow resonate even now:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

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