In large measure the Christmas season is a very special time, especially for Christians. The joyfulness and sense of brotherhood which marks this time of the year is a welcome respite from the pessimism and partisanship which tends to define us more generally.
Despite the general sense of euphoria which prevails, we often encounter a counter current of discontent with the way Christmas is celebrated. This discontent is demonstrated most frequently by Christians. Many who claim this identity seem dissatisfied to allow others to observe and enjoy this joyous occasion in their own way. Complaints about holiday accommodations made to other faiths, about the commercialism of the event, and about any perceived lack of respect for Christian Orthodoxy’s picture of Christmas are almost certain to divert many from the underlying theme of peace and goodwill as proclaimed by the angelic host on high.
In the midst of a celebration of joy, the introduction of such partisan squabbles cannot be enhancing. Joy and peace and brotherhood are never achieved through faultfinding, dogmatic proscriptions, and insistence on conformity. To the extent we engage in such activities at Christmas, we proclaim our own lack of understanding of Jesus and the significance of His birth.
Despite the church’s teachings, Jesus did not call us to be our brothers’ judge or the enforcer of rules of righteousness. The birth of Jesus was an announcement of a new mode of operation for the human race, dramatically different from what mankind had experienced to that point in history. A failure to embrace that dramatic newness is evident throughout the church’s theology. Clinging tenaciously to the old simply implies that Jesus and the angels were mistaken or somehow thwarted in their declaration of a new way. How can such thinking be a part of honoring Jesus’ birth?