Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2005/ 12 Kislev
Not so silent night
The effort by some cable TV hosts and ministers to force commercial establishments into wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas" might be more objectionable to the One who is the reason for the season than the "Happy Holidays" mantra required by some store managers.
I have never understood why so many Christians feel the need to see and hear "Merry Christmas" proclaimed to them at stores by people who may not believe its central message. While TV personalities, junk mail letters and some of the ordained bemoan the increasing secularization of culture; perhaps some teaching might be helpful from the One in whose behalf they claim to speak.
Jesus the real one, not the Republican-conservative-Democrat-liberal one made in the image of today's fractured political culture said His kingdom is not of this world. Why, then, are so many who claim to speak for Him demanding that this earthly kingdom celebrate Him and His Kingdom?
Paul the Apostle said, "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7). Jesus spoke a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven resembling a treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44). The Apostle John warned, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
Let's see: Should the crass commercialization of "Christmas" and the focus on accumulating and giving stuff (each sold separately; batteries not included) be part of this indictment? Even a casual observer or biblical illiterate might reasonably draw such a conclusion.
The classic Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem," composed in 1868 by Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner, rebukes those who have transformed Christmas from what it is into what it is not. This rebuke is not to the "world" and the way it has cashed in on Christmas, but to those who are committing spiritual adultery by embracing the world, while simultaneously claiming fealty to their "first love."
About Bethlehem, Brooks says, "How still we see thee lie." There is nothing "still" about the cacophony surrounding the modern Western observance of Christmas.
How about this verse: "How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n." Oh that the shouters would become silent and let the only voice that matters speak for Himself. The rest of the verse is also a slap in the face to modern man: "So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav'n." Human hearts, not sellers of things made in China.
There's more: "No ear may hear His coming but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in."
Oh, my. Meek souls? How many of the self-proclaimed defenders of Christmas appear meek? In our era of nonstop sound and endless sound bites, the carol writers say you won't recognize the voice of Jesus through the physical senses.
I do not care if a mall employee wishes me a "Merry Christmas," or not, or if mall managers favor snowpersons over manger scenes, or erect trees they call "holiday" and not "Christmas." It isn't about their observing this event, giving us a "religious rush" and creating a false sense of security that culture is better than it is. It is about people who believe in this historic event observing it in a way that recalls the birth of the Savior of the world (not the savior of the bottom line): silently, wondrously and worshipfully.
Let the world get drunk at its office parties. Let it consume material things, pile up credit card debt and embrace other trappings of this counterfeit "Christmas" road show. I prefer the "original cast."
Another carol, less familiar, but even more to the point:
"Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
We should expect that homage only from those who "believe on His name," not from the Santa Claus worshippers.
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand."
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