A little over a week ago, right after the Thanksgiving holiday, my go-to Christian radio stations made the switch to Christmas music. All Christmas, all the time. And there are some amazing Christian Christmas songs out there - so beautiful, so serene, so still. I love settling into the Christmas season, letting the early evenings and star-lit nights wash over me, singing about a little town named Bethlehem and a babe in a manger and a Savior of the world.
But the Christian radio stations are playing songs about Santa, Rudolph, and longed-for hippopotamuses. (In addition, of course, to all of the beautiful Jesus music they are also playing.)
Here's the thing: I don't want to come off like one of "those" Christians, but...I guess I'm one of "those" Christians.
The Santa music is a distraction. It takes me away from a little place tucked aside where a man and his soon-to-be wife look for lodging on a long winter's night. It takes me away from wise men from afar and shepherds in a field and angels pronouncing the birth of Christ the King. It takes me away from stars of wonder and silent nights. It takes me away from the Savior of the world and to somewhere much lesser, like milk and cookies, and, of course, a few carrots.
There are those who don't get this, who don't understand. There are those in the church who say, hey, now, slow down. They think it's great that the church, even through Christian radio, is making the statement that we can do Christmas the way the world does. That we're not opposed to this whole Santa thing. That we're not grumpy curmudgeons, intent on making this Christmas only about our Lord and Savior. They absolutely love that we'er showing the world that we can do Christmas their way.
Did you know that most of our children, even our Christian children, believe that Santa is more real than Jesus? Did you know that even those children who wait anxiously for a baby Jesus to appear in the manger think that the presents under the tree are more real than the Holy Spirit? Did you know that our kids are living in a world where Santa is long-expected and Jesus is a nice holiday sentiment?
Come, thou long-expected Santa.
It's because we're living in a time in which the church feels this completely weird need to prove to the world that we can do things their way. To show the world that we're not so different after all. To tell them that we're not so bent on this Jesus thing that we can't have a little fun every now and then.
But our fun has brought us to a place where there's a baby in a cradle at the North Pole, surrounded by reindeer. And the only place that most of our Christians are going to celebrate Christ this Christmas is at a token church service, where we will sing carols, light candles, rejoice, and then go home and set out milk and cookies for the one who is actually supposed to come that night.
Look, I'm not saying we should boycott Christmas; that's not it at all. There is a place in our celebrations for the lights, the decorations, the gifts, the dinners - all the things that the world is doing. But we have to make sure that they myth doesn't overtake the story. We have to make sure that Christ is the center of our celebration, not Santa.
Because the church wasn't meant to show the world that we can do it their way. The church was meant to show the world another way to do things. And there's no such thing as a Ho-ho-holy Night.