Christmas: A Very Merry Progressive Whatever?
As a Christian, I am glad to see the merriment that accompanies the celebration of Christmas. The joy of the season is palpable. By all means, join in the joy. I, along with everyone else, love the parties, the bright lights, the fun of watching shoppers looking for presents, the kick of reading little kids’ Santa wish lists. It’s great to see so many happier than usual.
But I am never happy to hear that Christmas is whatever anyone, particularly devotees of the religion of progressivism, wishes Christmas to be or not to be.
Be it the inclusion of Muslim hymns to Allah in public high school programs in the name of multiculturalism, the exclusion of nativity scenes from those same high school programs, the Grinch syndrome exhibited by the New York City high school principal who decided there would be no Thanksgiving, no mention of Christmas, no stars, no carols, no crèche, no this, no that -- the idea apparently being that kids should know nothing about the Christian celebrations or Christian heritage of the West.
It is ironic that these Christmas joy-killing folks are some of the same people who believe all tribes under the sun should be able to worship and to celebrate the gods of their choosing. None of them would hesitate to applaud a celebration of the Great Spirit worshipped by some Native American tribes. Most would respectfully observe the ceremonies dedicated to the many gods of various African tribes, making sure no offense was given or variance demanded. Nor would many tell members of the Hindu religion how to worship Vishnu, considered the protector and preserver of worlds.
No, most progressives would not interfere in any other religious festivals by telling the devotees what their heritage is really about or attempting to redefine those holidays into a celebration of progressivism. It is hard to think of any progressive walking into, say, a Hopi sacred ceremony such as the Kachinas dance at winter solstice, only to tell the celebrants to be sure to sing and dance about signing up for ObamaCare; or to discuss the many virtues of gun control; or chat about allowing Syrian immigrants into the U.S.
It just wouldn’t happen.
But Christmas? That’s a different story.
For many progressives, Christmas should really about the celebration of the latest progressive doctrines and government initiatives. It should be about inclusivity and multiculturalist values. It’s about the warm, indefinable fuzzies generated by a warm, general good cheer toward mankind as it moves closer and closer to hope of progressivism and its messianic, utopian vision for all mankind. Peace on earth and good will to men/women and -- sorry, it’s just irresistible -- all fifty-one genders in between.
In sum, Christmas should be a progressive holiday.
But for Christians, Christmas is a unique holiday not open to redefinition.
It is the celebration of a unique and unrepeatable event that changed the world forever. The story is told best in the gospels, which relate the story of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. The little babe born in Bethlehem is the Son of God come to save humans sunk in darkness and sin by sacrificing himself for those who believe.
The story of mankind’s salvation come from heaven to earth below is also well told by poets moved by and believing in the story of God made flesh.
One such poet was Robert Southwell, a Jesuit priest who lived during the Renaissance in England. His poem, “New Heaven, New War,” captures the divine resolution to the age-long dilemma of reconciliation between sinful man and a holy God. It movingly portrays the tension inherent in the momentous conflict between good and evil, God and the Devil. Southwell’s poem was later put to music by composer Benjamin Britten, whose “Ceremony of Carols” perfectly depicts the warlike tone of Southwell’s piece by the use of an almost cacophonic polyphony of voices, voices which come at last to a joyous and harmonious resolution focusing on the triumph of the “the heavenly boy,” the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Southwell’s words from “New Heaven; New War:”
“Come, kiss the manger where he lies, That is your bliss above the skies.
This little Babe so few days old, Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake, Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarmed wise, The gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field, His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries, His arrows made of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need, And feeble flesh his warrior's steed.
His camp is pitched in a stall, His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes, Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound, The Angels' trumps alarum sound.
My soul with Christ join thou in fight, Stick to the tents that he hath dight;
Within his crib is surest ward, This little Babe will be thy guard;
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, Then flit not from the heavenly boy.”
This, then, progressive or conservative or neither, is what Christmas is about. It is what Christianity is about. This little babe came to defeat Satan and his allies. He came to save all who believe in him from sin and death. All we like sheep have gone astray and have turned everyone to his own way, but the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. The wee babe in the manger would conquer death that we might live. If there is exclusivity in the gospel message -- and there is -- it is that Christ the Savior offers exclusive, infinite love to all who believe in him.
Robert Southwell was hanged. That is because in the chaos of the Reformation, politics defined Christianity. Southwell was a Catholic in an England in which political struggles were defined either by the doctrines of the papacy or by the Church of England. Christianity, in other words, was defined by whoever was politically ascendant, be they Henry VIII, his Catholic daughter Mary or his Protestant daughter Elizabeth I. One either bowed to the definition of Christianity as defined by political powers, or one’s life was forfeit.
Here in the United States, long characterized by freedom of religion and by Christmas celebrations that were largely within a distinctly Christian tradition, we have increasingly seen a politicized Christmas as defined by the powers that be. So we are looking at nothing new. It is well to know and to remember that the messages of earthly powers are changeable and fleeting. It is also good for Christians to remember that Christmas can never be redefined by any powers of earth. It was and is defined from all eternity. It is unchangeable.
For America’s Christians and believers around the world who are about to celebrate one of their most sacred and joyous holidays, the holy day of Christmas has had the same message for the last two thousand years. It is a message from a Kingdom not of this world: “Joy to the world; the Lord has come.”
Christ has come. Christ has died, Christ has risen; Christ will come again.
A very merry Christmas to each and every one!
Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. Her thoughts have appeared in many online publications, including CNS, Fox News, National Review and RealClearReligion. She holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her its prize for excellence in systematic theology. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org