What does our contemporary culture have against Jesus? Even non-Christians used to pay tribute to the author of, ‘love your neighbor as yourself, go the extra mile and turn the other cheek’; even if they seldom sought him first in all things. Today however, the fact that the Christmas holiday is meant to celebrate his birth is no longer considered essential by some nor culturally sensitive by others. Some big city administrations going so far as to allow symbols of other religious holidays celebrated during this season – the Jewish Menorah and the Muslim star and crescent - while forbidding the display of the nativity. As religious references to Christmas have been declared offensive by ACLU-led lawsuits, private as well as public enterprises are beginning to ban the display of angels and mangers while censoring carols that are specifically “Christian” in nature. (Target going so far as to deny the Salvation Army’s bell ringers the opportunity to collect contributions in front of their stores. The reference to salvation evidently seen as intrusive and insensitive by Target’s corporate executives.)

For some, the problem with Christmas is it’s name – Christ’s mass. Not only does it specifically identify the Christian deity but it makes a direct reference to Christian worship; automatically making it non-inclusive and intolerant. (As if allowing other faiths symbols to be displayed while banning the Christian’s isn’t?) Merry Christmas is, therefore, gradually being replaced with Happy Holidays by well-wishers as the celebration of Christmas is being transformed simply into one of many year-end celebrations.

Why is this happening? Gene Veith, culture editor of World Magazine asserts, “The exclusive claims of Christ make even the name…” of this our most popular holiday offensive to many. For them, Jesus is uncomfortably exclusive, and they are right! To a world convinced that every spiritual path leads to God, Jesus replies with a firm - no, it doesn’t. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 To those who consider faith in Christ as optional in their search for a meaningful relationship with God, Jesus corrects with, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23 For those seeking to create their own way to God, Christian scripture declares, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 Making Jesus appear dangerous to some, a stumbling stone and rock of offense to others. (1 Peter 2:6-8) And yet, Jesus assures us that, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:6 To a culture that has raised tolerance to the level of a moral absolute, changing it’s meaning from tolerating differences to denying there are any - this is intolerable!

So what should we do? Do we pray in public – in Jesus’ name – or refrain from doing so in a quest for peace and harmony? Should we craft songs (and lifestyles) that avoid direct references to Jesus that disguise our purpose, the ambiguous lyrics referring to either a lover, friend or Jesus; or do we stay true to our calling throughout life’s endeavors to minister in Jesus’ name? If so, we can expect to be misunderstood, reviled and even hated, just as Jesus warned. (Matthew 10:22) For we must never bow to the new absolutes of tolerance and inclusion, remaining faithful instead not just to the ideals that have been declared acceptable about him but to, “…the name (and thus the person) that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

What is the appeal of a holiday so inextricably associated with the name and person of Christ for a culture so determined to deny that connection? Mainly – people like to give and receive gifts and the seasonal shopping is a tremendous boost to the economy. But still the question is posed, ‘Why does it have to have anything to do with Christ?’ As Mr. Veith notes, “The answer is simple: He is the gift. He is the giver. Those who think they can celebrate Christmas without Christ are only going through the motions, clinging to empty forms, yet paying tribute, against their will, to ‘that name above every other.’”

The Christ of Christmas.