What does Christ have to do with Christmas? Many religious conservatives complain that modern liberalism and secularism have driven Christ from Christmas, but if we take a closer look at how Christmas is celebrated in modern America we find that there wasn't much of Christ there to begin with. What's there to "defend"? Maybe Christ hasn't really been an integral part of the American Christmas for a long time.
Creepy Santa Caught, 1890
New Donkey wrote a couple of years ago:
Have Christians forgotten how many early martyrs died because of their refusal to pay homage to the "universal" religion of the Romans? And have Protestant Christians (who undoubtedly make up the vast majority of those upset at the resistance of Jews, Muslims, and the irreligious to the idea of demanding universal acknowledgment of Christmas) forgotten that the imperial establishment of Christianity by Constantine was the beginning of what the Reformers considered the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church?
And speaking of the Reformers, have today's heirs (including Presbyterians, and indirectly, Southern Baptists) of the Scots Reformer John Knox forgotten that official celebration of Christmas was actually banned in Scotland until well into the twentieth century as a "pagan" feast?
I'm prejudiced on this subject, believing, as I do, that Knox might have been right for the wrong reasons: Christmas is spiritually dangerous not because it's a holdover from "idolatrous" Roman Catholicism, but because it has become intimately associated with values--greed, commercialism, and insincere family conviviality--that have nothing to do with the Feast of the Nativity, and its profound underlying idea, the Incarnation.
Several important themes are touched upon here. First, Christians need to remember that the use of force to get people to acquiesce to dominant religious practices should be treated as antithetical to their own religious heritage (however much it's actually been done by Christians in the past). Second, Christians need to remember that many Christians, past and present, have objected to celebrating Christmas at all. In light of that, it's difficult to argue that Christmas is inherently or necessarily "Christian."
Finally, Christians need to pay attention to the fact that modern celebrations of Christmas simply don't have anything to do with Jesus, the Feast of the Nativity, or the Incarnation. Consider some of the most popular Christmas traditions: erecting and decorating a tree, hanging wreaths, sending cards, drinking eggnog, giving presents, hanging mistletoe... where is Christ in all of this? Most of it is pagan -- it's no wonder that many Christians have objected to Christmas celebrations.
If Christians want to "defend" Christmas and restore some religious meaning or content to it, that's fine -- but they are going about it the wrong way. They can't turn the tide of commercialization, secularization, and tolerance in how modern American culture celebrates this time of year. They might, however, be able to convince individual Christians to turn away from all that and focus on the religious aspects of the holy day. If enough Christians change, perhaps the culture will as well, but the focus should be on what Christians do as individual Christians. Trying for force the culture to change by attacking the use of greetings like "Happy Holidays" is just silly.