Friends, we are engaged in a cultural war. That comes as no surprise to most of you, who find yourselves daily on the front lines of the faith, trying to figure out how best to confront the opposition of the world. But it's a war that comes to its full peak sometime around Christmas each year (naturally), and while we're all busy fighting for our "Merry Christmas" and public nativities, we should not lose sight of the fact that in this very season, the world itself is showing its hand.
Here's what the world says: the world says that you should believe whatever you want to believe. It says that as long as you keep these things to yourself, it won't have a problem. It pretends not to care if you have a nativity scene set up in your own home, as long as you don't put one out where everyone else has to look at it. The world plays our music, but drowns it out with reindeer and presents and, of all things, even a hippopotamus. Anything so that the sound of the season isn't some silent night in a little town of Bethlehem with the coming of the faithful.
But listen carefully, or not so carefully, and you realize that what the world really wants is to convince its people that the story isn't real. Jesus? Really? The world tosses its head and laughs at the impossibility of a pregnant virgin, at the obscurity of one baby among thousands, at the quaintness of a manger for a man who claims to be God. Just as at other times of the year, the world has invested itself in convincing its people that this...this is just a story. It's a myth. It's not real, and it never was. This fight is intensified around Christmas.
They try to use science to fight it. To show the studies of the brightest star in the night sky and to talk about how persons have historically used the stars to navigate at night. Nothing special about it. To show that it would have taken two years for the magi to get there, so that little "story" that we tell ourselves? It isn't even historically accurate. To re-date the Christmas story because, did you know, Jesus wasn't born on December 25. The whole thing, they say, reeks of desperation and foolishness. If we really wanted to celebrate the birth of the historical figure Jesus, it ought to be sometime in summer. That's what it ought to be.
And the whole time, the world is screaming, "At least get your facts straight! Gosh, you Christians are such an embarrassment to human thinking and reason."
...not a word about Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is the world's dominant story this time of year, and there's no evidence at all of a big, fat, jolly guy who lives in the frigid North Pole with a bunch of tiny little helpers who build toys all year so that his flying reindeer can help him deliver those toys to children all around the world in one singly night.
They've set up their fanciest radars to track his movement around the world. They've commercialized his little helpers and turned them into spies. The "Department of Christmas," somewhere in Australia, apparently, even released an official "Naughty and Nice" list this year, pared down and classified by first name only. (Spoiler alert: I'm on the naughty list.)
There are books and television shows and store displays and visits by "real-life" Santas who everyone knows are not really Santas. I saw some parents this year who bought fake security cameras from a dollar store and put them in their house, then told the kids Santa stopped by and installed them to see if they were being good this year, and the Internet applauded the "genius" of these parents.
Oh, we know that none of this story is "true." None of it is fact. There is no scientific evidence to back any of it and, in fact, science would de-bunk it faster than it tries to tear our Christian story down. But try telling one child, even just one child, that Santa isn't real, and this world will eat you alive. It will tear you down. It will forever brand you...a monster.
So which is it? Do we need to get our facts straight or do we need to abandon all reason? You see, the world isn't holding its own story to the same standard that it holds ours.
And you have to ask yourself...why not? Why, if reason and reasonability are so important to what the world is willing to put up with, does it tolerate - even celebrate - Santa Claus and dismiss - even despise - Jesus Christ? Even at Christmas?
Really, I suppose, it's quite simple: the world knows that Santa Claus is just a story, a myth, a fanciful little thing that we've made up and that no one, beyond a certain age, really believes it is true. But Jesus? Jesus is different. And the world fears that this story may be more than just a story. It may be more than a myth. It may be truth (we know that it is).
But if it is, this Jesus changes everything. And for the world, that's a very scary possibility.
For us, we know that it is exactly the point.