The time of year is approaching in which many loud opinions will surface, claiming that we need to “keep Christ in Christmas” or that there is “a war on Christmas” that needs to be fought. One thing worth noting is that this phenomenon is almost exclusive to the United States. While one may find small samples of this in places like Canada or UK, it by far the most pervasive in North America. Whenever conflict emerges in the arena of religion, it is important to delve beneath the surface and see if this conflict is even worth having at all.
In this case, I think the whole idea of the “War on Christmas” is a colossal waste of time and energy, primarily because Jesus was not even born in December. The tradition that Jesus was born on December twenty-fifth did not arise among Christians until the fourth century; speculated by church fathers such as John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem. There is nothing explicit in the Bible indicating when Jesus was born. One implied possibility is found in Luke 2:8-9, as shepherds were out in the fields, tending to their flocks. Based on the data we have, shepherds would only be out between the months of March and October. Also in Luke 2, it is written that Herod ordered a census of the entire Roman world. This would have been very unlikely to do in the winter (not impossible, but incredibly implausible). This also assumes that the content mentioned is what I call “history remembered,” as both birth narratives do not read as though they are pure history, but likely are instead “history metaphorized.” In other words, they contain some history, but that history was reshaped to emphasize various themes and ideas about who Jesus is as the Christ. So to say that can have definitive evidence of when Jesus was born at all, is, at best, dubious.
With this considered, it should be apparent that either the authors of the New Testament did not know when Jesus was born, or they did not deem it to be very important. But why is this such a point of contention for American Christians? Why does it matter whether someone says Happy Holidays, Jolly Junkanoo, Super Solstice, Killer Kwanzaa, or Merry Christmas? There are other holidays being observed during the winter season, so why do Christians care? I personally think it is due to the fact that American Christians have been in positions of privilege for so long that the appearance of other holidays alongside Christmas can be perceived as a threat. As multi-cultural societies are produced, it can be disorienting for many, but the adaptation or assimilation to the existence of diversity is important for social development and stability. For Christians to show benevolence toward people of other religious traditions and those who observe other holidays is not “a compromise,” it is to take Jesus seriously and be faithful to his call to love our neighbors as ourselves, because our neighbor can be anyone.
It is time for the alleged "War on Christmas" to end, because it has served no greater good. To opt out of the so-called “War on Christmas” is not a collapse into sterile political correctness, it is to stop fighting over things that are not only ill-informed, but it is to come to terms with the fact that people are creating an unnecessary conflict over things that absolutely do not matter. If we are going to “keep Christ in Christmas,” we should instead be concerned with feeding the hungry, serving those who are in need, giving gifts to those who have none, doing what we can to bring healing to those who suffer, and enriching the lives of those for whom the holidays are less than pleasant. To contentiously argue about whether or not someone says Merry Christmas is, in my opinion, embarrassing. There are many things that could be done with our energy during this holiday season that would be a much clearer reflection of Jesus to the world. So let us find them, and do them.