A PROPOSAL: Christians around the world convene a council to find an alternative date to celebrate Christmas. We allow December 25th to remain a "Happy Holiday." And we find a totally new date for Jesus' birthday celebration. Maybe July.
Why? In reality we have two separate holidays. One is a sentimental "warm fuzzy," focusing on family and the spirit of giving. The other is a celebration of the divine Son of God come into the flesh. So let's divorce them.
Dr. Herbert Hoefer, a former missionary in India, commented on this in the December issue of the Lutheran Witness. He noted that when he returned to the U.S. after 13 years in India he realized, "I'm still in a non-Christian society. The society may call the holiday 'Christmas,' but it's not. Rather, it's a pagan winter solstice festival of social renewal. It's like something virtually every society around the world has at year's end, an occasion to recommit as families and help the needy and feel good about ourselves as a people again."
Hoefer suggests exchanging gifts on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day. And then we can get on with Advent and an undivided focus on Christmas as the joy-inducing celebration of the incarnation. I'm in favor of an all out Christian party on Christmas Day. Really loud singing. Lots of candles. Champagne (or egg nog) as you come out of the sanctuary (not as you come in). We can open gifts (I like gifts) on another day. After all, the focus should be on the Birthday Boy . . . I mean the God-man, and Savior of the entire world. Let's spend a whole day marveling at the fact that God chose to fix our mess by entering it - with skin and bone, eyelashes and eyebrows, toenails and a tongue.
By the way, I really like the sentimental, warm and cozy feeling of society's "holidays." So let's keep Santa, and sing "Rudolph." But then let's gather around the nativity set and sing "What Child is This?" (my personal favorite Christmas song). For years, Christians have been trying to "put Christ back in Christmas." I don't want to put Christ in the "Merry Christmas" that society celebrates. It's like putting the ugly sister's foot into the glass slipper. Let's just let the Holidays be the Holidays, and Christmas be Christmas.
I am half serious about changing the Christian church's calendar and moving Christmas away from December 25th. Who would I have to petition? Pope Benedict? If you're reading this in Rome, leave a comment below.