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FIRST-PERSON: Christmas and marriage

DALLAS (BP)–My oldest child, a son, now 23, spent his first Christmas sans Santa when he was only three-months old. I don’t think he was scarred in any way. He was too young to understand he was missing out on something fun. His parents were taking the “purist” approach. Jesus only. Well … not only. We still bought Christmas gifts for family and friends.

To explain that to my three-month-old, I got this book at the Christian bookstore. I read it to him — several times. It was about how the gifts we give to one another at Christmas symbolize God’s gift of Jesus Christ to us. (I think I read that book to my other kids in subsequent years, but by that time, we were also reading books about Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.)

I was a little nervous about getting a Christmas tree because I heard the custom had pagan origins. But then, I read something about evergreens being an ancient symbol of rebirth. So I got one. When shopping, I avoided saying Merry Christmas, thinking it was much more spiritual to say, “Have a Blessed Christmas.” (This year, I’ve been looking for Christmas cards that say “Merry Christmas.” They’re hard to find.) They’re hard to find.) On Christmas morning we opened about a billion presents with mostly unbelieving relatives, I kept whispering in my little boy’s ear things like, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

By the next Christmas we were full on into Santa Claus, stockings, the works. My brief dance with a Jesus-only Christmas was over. Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth were not diminished by the other trappings of Christmas. I realized I did not need to shield my children from the secular celebration of Christmas.

Little did I know how happy I would be 20-some years later that there is something majestic about this season that people other than Christians love. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the critical mass it takes to fight the battles Fox News host John Gibson writes about in his new book, “The War on Christmas.” For decades Christians have been wrangling with city officials over crèches on public property and the singing of Christmas carols at school. We’ve been losing most of those fights. Manger scenes are normally required to be surrounded with Santas and Frostys. Public schools’ “winter” concerts feature “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” but “Joy to the World” is forbidden.

Well, guess what? These days, in some school districts, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is gone, too. We’re seeing the symbols that have nothing to do with the Christian aspects of Christmas banned, or at least omitted, citing inclusiveness and sensitivity to religions other than Christianity. Clerks have been trained to greet us with the words “Happy Holidays” as we shop in stores that count on Christmas purchases for a huge chunk of their annual profits. Cities and towns use “Holiday” — not Christmas — to describe their trees and parades. And schools across the nation, fearing lawsuits by the ACLU and its allies, have become more draconian in their enforcement of political correctness regarding that season that comes along in December. For example, where I live, in Plano, Texas, the public schools banned red and green paper plates from being used for “holiday” parties. I guess officials worried visions of sugarplums, or thoughts of Christmas, might come to mind.

The good news is it’s not just Christians who are really sick of this. If you put the Christians, who have been frustrated for years with the secularization of Christmas, together with other Americans who are mad because the even secular parts of Christmas are being banned, you finally have Gibson’s critical mass. All of a sudden retail chains like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Target are taking baby steps back toward acknowledging Christmas. A few cities are proudly renaming their Holiday trees and parades, going back to the word “Christmas.” We have a Capitol Christmas Tree again in Washington. We’ll hear more of this over the next few years. It’s going to take some time to turn the ship.

There’s a parallel here. It was brought to my attention by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, as he interviewed Gibson for his radio program. He likened the battle over Christmas to the battle over the redefinition of marriage. Seeing their beloved, familiar institutions like Christmas, threatened, Americans who are not necessarily believers join Christians to finally rise up and say, “that’s enough.” We’re not going to let Christmas go. Or marriage.
Perkins’ interview with Gibson can be heard by visiting www.frcradio.org, and clicking on “previous shows.” The interview is the Dec. 10 broadcast. Dexter is a conservative activist and a former co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program. She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a producer for “Washington Watch Weekly,” a broadcast of the Family Research Council.

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  • Penna Dexter