By Dr. Harold Pease
It was in the eighth grade when I moved from Santa to Christ as my main focus of Christmas. I well remember the star saturated night when the heavens overwhelmingly testified of God’s awesomeness. I could almost feel the words of my favorite Christmas carol “Silent Night” go down into my soul as never before as I both sang and pondered its words. Perhaps it was the scenic nativity-like setting where I found myself, hand milking my neighbors cow while he was away for a week, the three-sided shed that allowed my gaze into the dark but star-lite, cold, cloudless night which allowed my peak into the heavens and most of all, it was Christmas Eve. I was alone with Christ. It could not have been more impressive and it was the same every morning and night for the week after Christmas.
I never had that experience again in the same way but I always had an intense love for the carols that spoke of his birth: “Oh Holy Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” and “The First Noel.” They were just different somehow—far more powerful than regular jingles. My background was not particularly unique for the time period. Santa was there for the children but he never competed with Christ for the spotlight. The transition to Christ just followed with maturity. Years followed years, I had children and now they have children and, because of home and church the songs have passed on as they had for hundreds of years before. But, unfortunately, this does not happen for everyone.
Today the earth is still bathed with happy songs but radio stations seldom play the ageless Christ-birth songs: “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” “With Wondering Awe,” “Away in the Manger,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Outdoor nativity decorations are virtually non-existent unless you make your own. Even indoor nativity scenes are hard to find. Stores have almost nothing to purchase that speaks to this Holy Night. Have we removed Christ from Christmas?
There are no television shows or movies that address Nativity themes but Hollywood never really did much in this direction anyway, the “Waltons” or “Little House on the Prairie” were the exception, but then again that was in an earlier generation. There is no Nativity symbolism on television programs today. Everything is “feel good” or Santa related. Even the Grinch is given more attention than Christ.
All references to Christ have been removed from our schools and teachers dare not encourage the singing of traditional Christmas carols, although any tune without the mention of Jesus Christ is encouraged. A culture that did not know the words of “Silent Night,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Joy to the World,” or, “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” would have been unheard of in my day, but is the norm today. Only the churches and homes give any exposure to Christ in Christmas, as was so for me and generations before me. Sadly some churches may give more emphasis to Santa than Christ. Neither churches nor communities have Nativity plays as once they did.
The reason for the season is Jesus Christ, that is why it is called Christ-mas but few homes show any evidence that He is center placed. Most Americans consider themselves unchurched (a term for those without religious affiliation) so the incentive to read, tell or act out the “Old Story” is mostly gone. Seemingly each generation transfers to the next less of Christ in Christmas.
Today we do not wish to offend other religions so Christmas has turned into Winter Break and Easter into Spring Break. I refuse to use these terms. Some advocate changing Christmas to Winter Holiday. The undermining of Christ’s special day is endless and seemingly intentional.
Why not change to a traditional Christmas this Christmas season, like generations before you. In your home play mostly the traditional Christ centered songs. Instead of a Santa, or reindeer in your front yard make a nativity scene. Take yourself or family to a church service. Find a service that will speak of that special night and rehearse the events of that most special day. Go caroling to shut-ins or to a nursing home. Read to your friends and loved ones on Christmas Eve the story of the birth of Jesus Christ—the one believed by all Christians to be the Savior of the world. If you have children let them act it out. Give Christ a few hours of your month. You will never be sorry that you took this challenge.
You may never have a special moment in a shed milking a cow on a cold starry night as I did as a 14 year-old boy but this same special feeling will find a way of filling your soul just as intensely in its own way. Then you will not be an accomplice in removing Christ from Christmas and will join those who wonder why anyone would want to.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.