One of my favorite moments in the 1981 film Gallipoli is when Frank (Mel Gibson) and Archy (Mark Lee) meet a lone codger crossing the salt lake on their way to enlist in Perth.
Surprised to learn Australia is fighting Germany—in Turkey no less—Archy’s explanation that Turkey is a German ally doesn’t seem to move him at all:
“Still, can’t see what it’s got to do with us,” he says.
Archy’s ready answer is, “If we don’t stop them there, they could end up here.”
Still not moved: “And they’re welcome to it.”
I may lose some of you as soon as I say it, but that’s about the way I feel about the “war on Christmas.” It’s become as much a part of the season as overflowing mall parking lots and one of two biannual appearances at church, which ranks somewhere around going to the dentist in the list of favorite obligations.
You could say I’ve withdrawn from the field. I don’t want to enlist, man the barricades, take up arms or otherwise participate.
That doesn’t mean, however, that this is a sign of slackening faith. My faith is no less on the 24th or 26th, and no greater on the 25th. It just doesn’t make any difference.
Well, that’s fine for you. But there’s been an unmistakable drift toward secularizing the whole holiday season. You know, ‘Happy holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’
OK, so the day means something different to you. “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.” [Rom 14:5] Here’s the applicable rule: Accept one another “without passing judgment on disputable matters.” [Rom 14:1]
If you don’t think celebrating Christmas is a “disputable matter,” you’re probably as out-of-touch as that man in the outback. Google “war on Christmas”, find a couple of articles or blog posts, then go to the Comments section. They’re not clinking together their mugs of eggnog or kissing under the mistletoe.
One of the pitfalls of wading into discussions of “disputable matters” is that they always seem to attract the puritans who are determined to settle, once and for all, whatever they see as being in dispute. They’re as obsessed as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, except their prey is a white Christmas instead of a white whale.
So, for example, a couple of days ago I followed the thread at one blog where commenters hurled arguments at each other for and against the celebration of Christmas until one side threw down the gauntlet. As for establishing December 25 as the day Jesus was born, he said, “Chapter and verse please.”
Of course there isn’t one. It’s one of the “disputable” aspects of Christmas. But the Bible’s silence on a matter doesn’t automatically presume its prohibition.
So someone at some point decided to celebrate the birth of Christ and designated December 25 as the day. So what? As long as you don’t “nullify the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down” [Mk 9:13], what’s the problem?
If the day isn’t specified in the nativity stories and celebration of Christmas isn’t commanded like the ordinances of baptism and communion, shouldn’t a reasonable person at least consider that this is not worth fighting over?
As the heavenly host said 2000 years ago: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” [Lk 7:14]
Through Christ, his favor rests on us. So should his peace.