St. Nicholas’ Day and the False Gospels of Christmas

St. Nicholas Day, December 6, reminds me of the many ways that the secular season of Christmas has taken the Christian heritage of this season and turned it into an idolatrous imitation of the truth.

There is no doubt that the secular Christmas contains a gospel. Several, perhaps. And these false versions of the good news are all thievery from the Good News of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.

The secular season promises economic salvation if we will spend more than we did last year. The good news is full employment and lots of jobs. The savior is the dollar.

There is a gospel of sentimentalism, expressed in the idea of being “home” for Christmas. Somehow at Christmas our families and relationships can be repaired and made whole by the saving grace of sentiment.

There is a gospel of magical innocence at Christmas, where somehow we all return to childhood. The music of groups like Trans-Siberian Orchestra contains a message of forgiveness and mystical rebirth on Christmas Eve. This is, of course, not offered in seriousness, but nonetheless the message is clear: somehow the Christmas season (especially around midnight, with snow) contains a power of its own.

There is a gospel of salvation by generosity. One of the best things about the Christmas season is the generous support of many charitable causes. (See the post on Worldserve at IM/BHT.) Many non-profits, such as our own school, depend upon the contributions that come at year’s end to continue their work. But many secularists- and religionists- comfort themselves with the fact that they are not Scrooge, but open hearted toward the poor and those who help them.

These and many other gospel messages grow out of the places evacuated by the influence of the truth in our culture. As St. Nicholas the generous and the orthodox has been replaced by a Santa Claus presiding over an empire of expensive presents presented to the “good” rich, so the true Gospel has been replaced with this mannequin messages of false hope.

We can ignore the Christmas season, or we can do a more ancient kind of work: reclaiming the pagan holiday for God’s Messiah, King Jesus.

We must start by disentangling ourselves from the false gospels that have made themselves at homes in our lives and churches. And then we must reverence Christ in our hearts, homes and circles of influence. While Lent is the season of repentance, Advent is the time of casting aside the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light. Can we conceive of this reclamation work as part of what God calls us to at Advent?


~ by Michael on December 6, 2006.

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