The Common Good

Why the "War on Christmas" Doesn't Translate Across the Pond

Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind.
Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/839615

Throughout history, we British have had our fair share of wars.

You guys are probably still mad at us. The French are *definitely* still mad at us.

We smile politely (as we always do) and apologize (as we always do), and offer you a cup of tea (as we…you see where I’m going here) as a peace offering. 

But I’m not sure we can quite get our heads around the latest ‘war’ being waged in the United States – the ‘war on Christmas’.

Visions of the 101st Airborne heading towards the North Pole abound. Anti-reindeer defense weapons, covert elf anti-merriment operatives and a unilateral ban on all copies of A Christmas Carol (in its various media iterations)? Is that what we have come to?

Surely — and thankfully — not, but given some of the rhetoric that is thrown around in the media at this time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking so!

Given that most reporting about religion in the UK and Europe usually includes the phrase “an increasingly secular country," you might think that the "war on Christmas" back on the old sod is even more sustained and sophisticated than in the United States.

Picture heavily fortified nativity scenes being assaulted by atheist flash mobs chanting “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” if you will.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that I’ve yet to witness such a terrifying scene on the streets of London.

While there is the occasional "anti-Christmas" story that some try to latch onto, they are few and far between.

While my home country is more secular than the United States,  UK church attendance at Christmas doubles compared to the figure of regular churchgoers throughout the rest of the year. The festive season is one of the greatest opportunities for evangelism in the parish priest’s calendar.

As the son of one such priest, I’ve seen the faces of many a church visitor when they first hear the real Christmas story – the messy, scary and honest account of teenage pregnancy, occupation and genocide coupled with the astounding truth that the world received the most wonderful gift that has ever been given.

Christmas matters. It changes people. For some, it is what brings them to Jesus.

The scare-mongering that happens every year at Christmas is frustrating. This time of year, it feels like there really is a lot of truth in the phrase “evangelicals are bad for evangelism.”

When we are more concerned about which stores say 'Christmas' the most when advertising the products they are desperately trying to sell than we are about sharing the real Christmas story, we need to think again about our priorities.

Christmas isn’t going to be cancelled if one State House puts up a holiday tree, rather than a Christmas tree.The greatest threat to Christmas is whether we neglect to introduce people to the astounding story of Emmanuel – God With Us — the actual reason for the season.

Peace on Earth and Happy Christmas!

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant for Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

 

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