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FIRST-PERSON: Commercialization, secularization needn’t diminish real celebration

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–In his book “God With Us: The Miracle of Christmas,” John MacArthur writes, “I read a haunting newspaper story several years ago about a wealthy Boston family who had a christening party for their new baby. They invited all their friends and relatives to their magnificent home to celebrate the birth of their precious infant. A half-hour into the party, when it was time to bring the baby out for everyone to see, the mother made a tragic discovery. The large bed where she had left the baby asleep was piled high with the coats of the guests. The baby was lying dead underneath the mound, suffocated by the carelessly discarded wraps.”

MacArthur goes on to draw a parallel between the horrible scene in the Boston bedroom and the manner in which our consumer culture “celebrates” the birth of Jesus Christ. He writes, “Lost is the realization that Christmas is first of all the birth of the Savior. He is all but forgotten…”

I agree with MacArthur’s observation. As a result, I struggle during the ever-lengthening Christmas season. I cringed when I walked into a department store in early October and discovered Christmas paraphernalia where lawn and garden items had been displayed just days before.

Those who know me well even say I am somewhat of a Scrooge when it comes to the Yule season. I don’t argue with those who make such an assessment. However, I am quick to point out that my reason for “bah-humbugging” is vastly different than the character made famous by Charles Dickens.

Ebenezer Scrooge despised Christmas for purely economic reasons. His miserly mind could not justify pausing, for even one day, from the pursuit of profit. Ebenezer was selfish. If he could not enjoy Christmas, no one was going to enjoy it.

Kelly the Scrooge struggles with the crass commercialization and increasingly secularization of a Christian holy day. Rather than diminish the celebration, he simply wants the Reason for the season to have the starring role he deserves rather than the bit part he currently plays.

Several cities in the Northwest where I dwell refuse to use the word Christmas in connection with the celebration that culminates on Dec. 25. Instead, the term “winter holiday” is used to describe the festivities and commotion of the season. At least these cities are honest. In their mind, Christ has little to do with all that transpires in his name, so why not disassociate from him altogether.

Despite the struggle, I make it through each and every Christmas just fine. Somewhere between the airing of the first Chia Pet commercial (after all these years, we are told, they still make perfect presents) and the 75th showing of “White Christmas,” I realize that I do not need the culture to endorse Jesus’ birth.

Whether or not society at large understands the impact of Christ’s entrance into human history does not diminish its incredible significance. Dec. 25 heralds God’s plan to redeem mankind from the curse of sin. Thus it is the celebration of not only the birth of Christ, but also his life, death and resurrection. All the commercialization and secularization in the world can never smother the Eternal Life that was birthed in the manager lo those many years ago. That’s a fact I can celebrate!
Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs