NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–With each passing year, cultural attacks against the celebration of Christmas have multiplied — many would say to the point of the absurd.
This year alone, two well-known retail chains that have long promoted the commercialism of the season announced changes in their policies regarding Christmas to avoid offending those who don’t embrace its meaning.
Macy’s department store released a statement saying, “As America’s department store, Macy’s is representative of America, embracing all cultures and peoples. To be more inclusive and speak to all of our customers, we use phrases such as ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays,’ in addition to ‘Merry Christmas.'”
And Target announced it would no longer permit on its property the Salvation Army’s famous bell ringers and red kettles synonymous with its annual Christmas fundraiser for people in need.
“We receive an increasing number of solicitation inquiries from nonprofit organizations each year and determined that if we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit, then it opens the door to other groups that wish to solicit our guests,” Target said.
Since Target has been a key location for Salvation Army Christmas drives, the charity expects proceeds to fall by nearly $9 million this year.
Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College in Dallas, appearing on an episode of MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” Dec. 6, said Macy’s decision to use phrases that are more inclusive than Merry Christmas may be the greatest “bait and switch” of all time. Retail America has been adding to the meaning of Christmas for years, he said.
“They have been adding to the meaning commerce and marketing and sales, so that we’ve accepted now Christmas and commerce. But now they want to subtract,” Johnson said. “They’re subtracting Christmas now, so that all we’re left with is commerce. I think we’re going to feel kind of empty, and all we’ll be left with is the toys. Even the children after two or three days are bored with the toys.”
Johnson assessed the current debate over Christmas as “political correctness gone amuck,” saying without Jesus Christ there is no Christmas.
“What Macy’s wants is the sales without the substance,” he said.
In addition to retail stores, the selection of Christmas movies this season may leave people unfulfilled, as culture editor Gene Edward Veith noted in the Dec. 11 issue of World magazine. “‘Tis the season to be bummed out,” Veith writes, citing movies such as “Surviving Christmas” about how depressing Christmas is, “Christmas with the Kranks” about the desire to skip the entire season, “Noel” about alienation, dejection and dysfunctional families and the melancholy “Polar Express.”
While the culture spent years secularizing Christmas, now that thrill has worn off and people are ready to get rid of it altogether, Veith wrote. Thus, the anti-Christmas movement has emerged.
Malcolm Yarnell, associate dean of the theological studies division at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and director of the Center for Theological Research, told Baptist Press the current debate about Christmas could be attributed to one of two things.
“Either there really is an anti-Christian bias here at work, or it’s indicative of a misunderstanding of the separation of church and state,” Yarnell said. “For some people, they’ve taken the separation of church and state so far that what they mean by that is the separation of Christ and culture.”
Yarnell noted King Herod also tried to take Christ out of Christmas thousands of years ago, but it cannot be done.
“You can deny Him, but you can’t take Him out of Christmas because God became a man in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago,” Yarnell said. “Whatever modern people say about it, it occurred. There’s no way that we’re going to undo the incarnation. God became a man.”
The effort to take Christ out of the culture of Christmas is a sign of the continued secularization of America, Yarnell said.
“People don’t like to talk about Jesus or focus on Jesus because He’s offensive. The Gospel is very clear that Jesus is going to offend people. He calls us to repentance, and people just don’t want to hear that,” Yarnell said.
But Christians must not allow those attitudes to win, he said, noting the responsibility of believers to continually witness about Christ and make sure He remains in the culture.
“It should be a warning sign to Christians to get out there and tell people about Jesus Christ,” Yarnell said. “This should be an exhortation to us that we’re supposed to be witnessing about Jesus Christ regardless of what Macy’s and Target do.”
And while the culture is hostile to God now, it’s a fact that cultures ultimately lie under His judgment, Yarnell said. The process of ridding Jesus from the culture will continue until a revival in the nation ends it, he added.
“We’ll see stuff next year that will make this seem lightweight,” Yarnell said. “We need a spiritual revival in this country so that the chairmen of Target and Macy’s and whomever will want the witness of Christ in Christmas.”
Speaking on MSNBC, Johnson said as people continue to push Christ out of Christmas and Christmas out of the holiday, they’ll soon find themselves in what C.S. Lewis called “a land where it’s always winter and never Christmas.”
“And the angel said to Joseph, ‘You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.’ And that is the message of Christmas, Pat,” Johnson told the show’s guest host, Pat Buchanan. “We are all sinners in need of a Savior. And that’s why Christ came, to die on a cross for our sins, to be raised from the dead, that we might be changed and forgiven.”