I read a wonderful article the other day that did a great job tackling the myth of Christian persecution in the Christmas season (the "War" on Christmas, Keep Christ in Christmas, etc...). The full link to the article is here: http://www.organicstudentministry.com/?p=61156
I would add that many of these Christians who feel so called to defend Christmas are also the same ones lining up at the doors when they open on Black Friday (or Thursday) to get great deals. Because let's be honest, Jesus talked about discount shopping in a nation of excess almost as much as the Kingdom of God, right? If there is a "war"...I'm not sure who is fighting on which side, never mind what the sides are.
But I do think there is an important point in the Christmas season which continues to be overlooked. When speaking with many church members as we talk about the importance of Christmas many of them boil down the significance to the arrival of Jesus. Why was that important? He came so that he could save us from our sins. I do not disagree with this statement but I also believe that an important point is missing. We Christians celebrate a separate holiday for when Christ saved us from our sin (We call it Easter- proof that maybe Christians have lost this war since Easter comes from a pagan term-- I should point out I don't buy this argument as Christians have been adapting pagan cultures and traditions into many of our practices). No, I believe there is a point in the Christmas season that is overlooked and its the presence of God.
It is no accident that God With Us is a title given to Immanuel. In the birth of Jesus God became fully human- entering into a relationship with all of creation in an intimate way never before understood. And so often we overlook just how powerful this moment in history truly is. Yes, it is the arrival of God's Promise to the Chosen People. Yes, it is the culmination of generations of waiting. Yes, it is a new definition of "people of God" that transcends borders, race, socio-economic and now even sexuality. But first, and always foremost, Christmas is about being present.
About being present the way my 10 year old still insists on climbing into my lap when we watch a movie at home. Being present in the way my 13 year old son always asks if I am coming to his basketball game (and then ignores me while I am there so I can not embarrass him- which never works- I take pride in my ability to say or do something to embarrass my 13 year old son). Being present with my wife in the evening after the kids are in bed and we relax from a long day of work, after school activities, etc...
There is power in being in another person's Presence. And I mean when that other and you are both FULLY present for one another- giving your full attention, care, and support. This is what happened with the arrival of Jesus- God came down, climbed into the lap of the world (or rather, cradled the world in his lap) and spent some serious quality time together. The Christmas season is about being present with those whom we love! They are family by whatever definition we choose. And this intimate time is a Divine gift. For whenever we are present in such a way we are reminded that God too is present in that moment.
Merry Christmas my friends and loved ones. I really do hope you get lots of presence this year.