A Christmas message from Mike Fichter

December 19, 2017

Several years ago there was a growing clamor over what was coined the “war against Christmas”, a period when there appeared to be concerted efforts to scrub the name of Christ from the holiday’s title.  Schools changed the term Christmas break to the more generic “winter” break.  Retailers forbid employees to say “Merry Christmas”, encouraging the safer alternatives of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”  I remember one home improvement store that went so overboard on this that its artificial trees were advertised as “holiday” trees, a rebranding that seemed all the more ridiculous when noting the boxes the trees came in where clearly labeled “Christmas” trees.

Eventually the whole thing slumped into borderline absurdity, but not until providing plenty of fodder for talk radio shows and a few authors who jumped on the trend and published some big-selling books on the topic.  Since those high profile days of the so-called war, a large chunk of offending retailers have capitulated by reintroducing the term Christmas into their corporate vocabularies.  Some changes, such as the “winter break” term used by most schools now, seem more or less permanent.  All in all, there is enough tinsel strewn on both sides of the debate for multiple camps to claim victory.

From my perspective, I believe the battle over whether to use the term “Christmas” is, for the most part, over.  Christmas is back.  It’s the term people know.  It’s the term most people are comfortable with.  It’s safe to use once again.  But the truth is that while skirmishes continue to flare here and there over what we should call the holiday falling on December 25, the real dialogue has long ago shifted away from the holiday’s title to the more pertinent question: what does Christmas even mean?  In other words, we are learning that a post-Christian culture is perfectly fine with using the term “Christmas” as long as it is defined in terms that have nothing to do with Christ.  More to the point, to a large portion of our culture today, Christmas is now the season for endless Hallmark movies, Star Wars sequels, Black Friday shopping, new smartphone releases, and a shiny new Lexus in the driveway on Christmas morning.

Can you have all of these things and still celebrate the birth of Jesus?  Absolutely.  But it occurs to me that in a culture that has drifted so far from the moorings of absolute truth, the phrase “true meaning of Christmas” is itself in danger of becoming meaningless.  Who defines what is true?  Exactly the point, and one that retailers and agents of cultural change understand very, very well.

And so, against this backdrop of war and culture and who defines what, I believe it’s important to take a step back today and reflect on the truth that the real Christmas war is not about what retailers print in their ads or how schools define the end of the year.  The real Christmas war began four thousand years before Jesus’ birth, when one man and one woman willfully shook their fists in the face of God in a moment of unbridled treason.  It was there that the bridge between God and man was broken in two, exposing the horrific divide that no mere man or woman could ever cross again in his or her own power.

It was there, in the painful aftermath of the Rebellion, that the God who spoke the world into existence made the promise of a coming One, the seed of the woman, who would one day crush the power of sin and death.  So began the war, and so the war continued.

There would be wanderers, deliverers, kings and prophets, all pointing to another day when the coming King would appear. There were strange and mysterious utterances of a Child who would be born of a virgin.  He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Mighty God.  And strangely, He would be a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Men and angels longed to know what all of this meant.  The centuries passed and the war continued.

Then it happened.  On a night when no one was watching, after four hundred years of silence since the last prophetic utterance of the coming Messiah, a young pregnant virgin and her beloved came to the insignificant but prophesied village of Bethlehem to find that not one soul greeted the soon-to-be-born King’s arrival, nor was any room to be found.  It was there, in a shelter meant for beasts of the field, that the great King was born.

All of heaven burst forth in radiant joy, a mighty star appeared in the night sky, and the world changed forever with the sound of a newborn King’s cries.  But the manger could not bridge the gap between God and man.  The war was not yet over, but instead grew more intense.

The young King’s family fled to save His life as a madman devastated the village of His birth with a vicious decree intended to crush the King’s mission at its very root. The wailing of mournful mothers confirmed that the manger was not the end.  The war continued.

Little is known about years of the King’s life as He grew from a child to a young man.  With the manger in Bethlehem so far behind Him, the King now burst onto the stage by giving sight to the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, healing the lame, and embracing the despised.  He dined with outcasts, fed the multitudes, calmed the seas, and even raised the dead.

All of this was a great precursor to where the war was taking Him, a path on which none of us would ever choose to walk, where His closest friends would betray Him, where soldiers would beat Him with their fists, where religious leaders would mock Him, and where the multitudes who saw His healing works now shouted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

And so the great King would hang on a cross, wearing not a diadem of gold and jewels, but a twisted crown of thorns.  It was there at the cross that the mother who gave birth to Him in that Bethlehem stable so long ago sank to her knees in unspeakable pain as she watched the Son she once carried within her womb cry out, “It is finished.”

It was here that the great King willingly took the punishment for our rebellion so that all who would believe on Him would find the gap on the bridge between God and man had finally been repaired.

The real Christmas war has been won.  Glory to God in the highest.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

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