Early last month 1,400 lights illuminated a department store’s Christmas tree—eighty feet tall this year. Thanksgiving Day was still several weeks away, but that hardly mattered; November 27 was not unlike other Thursdays. In fact, the Christmas that tree heralds is one of tinsel and toys; the baby in a manger is merely incidental to it. For that tree was trimmed in Tokyo, where less than 1 per cent of the population professes to be Christian.

Even in predominantly Christian countries, celebrations of the holiday commemorating the birth of Christ seem to pronounce faith in him dead, trampled by the crush of crowds, and buried in a ribbon-bedecked casket with a requiem in Muzak and tinkling cash registers. The great American melting pot has mingled Christianity with season’s greetings and business acumen to create something palatable to anyone—including those who think of Jesus as, at most, a good man.

“Nothing I can say or do can stop the degradation of Christmas,” writes a Jew who does not want to participate in the Christian birthday, “but something you do can proliferate the Christmas spirit.… Turn it back into a searching of your soul and your purpose. Keep it as precious as it is. Throw us out.… The power of the Church is waning … but the power of Christ is still viable. I can say it because I’m objective.”

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