I wrote this tonight as a comment in response to a friend's Facebook status. Here's his original thought:
"wonders why so many are so "heaven-bent" that it's time to put Christ back into Christmas. What does that even mean? Was he ever there? How can you make God leave? Wouldn't it be alright if we all had a holiday for a holiday's sake...you know...just the rest from work and pleasant exchanges between strangers is a good foundation for a holiday."
After he posted that, there were around 25 comments in a discussion with people arguing both sides and even adding some totally different sides, if that's possible. While I tend to avoid these sorts of discussions, for some reason I felt like responding. I've copied my response below:
"Christianity started as a minority movement. I'd even argue it's intended to be a minority movement and as anything more than that it loses some of its turn-the-world-upside-down
-ness, some of its "last shall be first", some of its "the Kingdom belongs to the poor and the weak". Jesus came as a poor infant to an obscure Davidic family who didn't even live in the royal city anymore. He was not born to a politically connected, well-to-do family in Jerusalem in order to become a king to liberate the Jews from Caesar and reestablish the Jewish political and cultural rule. His birth could hardly have been less of an ordeal. I think the "keep Christ in Christmas" movement is, in some sense, a modern attempt at trying to make Jesus an earthly King of the same type that the first-century Jewish people were expecting. It's an attempt to make a culture which would ordinarily have nothing to do with Him, honor Jesus. It's an attempt of coercion not unlike Nebuchadnezzar trying to make Daniel and the Triplets honor his pagan gods.
Now, with all of that said, I think Jesus is why we celebrate advent and Christmas. I think he should be what Christians are celebrating at this time of the year. But, I think we'd all do far better and be far truer to the story we find in the gospels and the Old Testament prophecies (see Isaiah 40 and following) if we just celebrated Jesus (and Mary and Joseph and Zechariah and Elizabeth and John and the list of characters in the Christ story goes on...) and the story of God's coming to earth to turn everything upside down rather than wasting our time and energy and money and rear window space on trying to force people around us to "Keep Christ in Christmas".
The message of Christmas is not that we should force people to honor Jesus. Certainly, that is not the message told in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. There is absolutely nothing forceful about the Son of God, God Himself, being born as a baby. If we take anything from the narrative of God coming as an obscure middle eastern infant, it should be that we are to humbly and quietly make our allegiances to Jesus and no one else. It seems to me that if total humility was sufficient and efficient enough for God to inaugurate His purpose and begin establishing His Kingdom on earth, it should be sufficient and efficient enough for us as we work to honor Him and continue to prepare the way for that Kingdom. Christianity was never intended to create a culture or politic of coercion. It was, from its very inaugural event, intended to create a culture of humility and love that might in its selfless activity shine the Light of Jesus into the world around it and convince that world that there is a better Way.
May the Light of Jesus dawn on us as we honor the story of God coming to earth to turn everything on its head that we might know the power of His resurrection."