It is time to recognize that a new tradition has been added to Christmas. As surely as trees and lights and reindeer, December now brings Christian complaints about the secularization of the holiday. T-shirts and posters and preachers declare, “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season,” but their protests are drowned in the commercial deluge.

Christmas is ruled not from Jerusalem or Rome or Wheaton or any other religious center, but from Madison Avenue and Wall Street. In a revealing symbolic act, President George Bush two years ago inaugurated the season not, mind you, in a church, but in a shopping mall. There he bought some socks and reminded Americans their true Christmas responsibility is not veneration but consumption.

To some, Christmas also seems less Christian because many of the nation’s institutions are less and less willing to prop up the church. So some disgruntled believers—misguidedly, by my estimate—do battle with various courthouses that no longer allow creches on their lawns.

Sometimes outsiders glimpse our own dilemma more acutely than we can. Last Christmas, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman wrote an article in Cross Currents entitled, “Being a Jew at Christmas Time.” In it he observed, “There is nothing wrong with sleigh bells, Bing Crosby, and Christmas pudding, but I should hope Christians would want more than just that, and as Christmas becomes more and more secularized, I am not sure they get it.” He went on: “In the end, the problem of Christmas is not mine any more than Christmas itself is. The real Christmas challenge belongs to Christians: how to take Christmas out of the secularized public domain and move it back into the religious sphere once again.”

The rabbi is right on both counts. For Christians, Christmas ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.