Pastor calls for ‘un-blending’ of traditions
    November 30 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

    LEAWOOD, Kan. — A Baptist pastor thinks he has a solution to the dilemma about whether it’s more appropriate to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in secular settings like department stores. 
Mike McKinney submits that tensions that flare between Christians and secularists this time of year aren’t about “taking Christ out of Christmas,” as some religious observers believe, but rather because Christians have allowed their holiday to become too secularized by blending the celebration of Christ’s birth with non-religious symbols like Santa Claus. 

    McKinney, pastor of Leawood Baptist Church in suburban Kansas City, is calling for a “reformation” of Christmas by separating secular and sacred aspects of the holiday. 

    McKinney says Christians and non-Christians alike would benefit from recognizing they are in fact celebrating two different holidays — one a religious commemoration of Christ’s birth and the other a winter festival marked by hustle and bustle with secular roots. 

    McKinney wrote the booklet titled Fixing Christmas for Everyone: A Plea for the Reformation of the Christmas Season proposing an un-blending of the “winter holiday” and “birth of Christ” traditions. 

    “It is simply not right to sing ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ as if they belong to the same holiday,” McKinney says. “It is not right to honor the birth of Christ the Lord and to celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus the jolly old elf within the context of the same holiday.” 

    McKinney says there is nothing wrong with singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” in December — in fact he enjoys much about the season — but they simply don’t have anything do to with Jesus Christ. 

    He says he is alarmed at how comfortable that both Christians and non-Christians have become with how Christmas is observed in America. 

    “Lots of folks are comfortable with blending Jesus with Santa, the Nativity with the North Pole, Angels with Elves, and Shepherds with Reindeer,” McKinney says. “I am not!” 

    He says the mingling of secular and sacred is behind the conflict that arises every year over holiday greetings in the marketplace. The word “Christmas” is technically a religious title associated with the Christian faith, he reasons, so non-Christians can rightfully ask what winter shopping has to do with Christianity. 

    McKinney says for centuries Christians have commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ in their homes and churches with traditions, carols and Bible stories. Until fairly recently, he says, many Christians began their holiday on Christmas Day and followed it with 12 days of festivities ending with Epiphany on Jan. 6. 

    Many of the images now associated with the Christmas season didn’t come along until the last century. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer appeared as part of a Christmas promotion in 1939 by Montgomery Ward and became even more popular when Gene Autry released it in song in 1949. Frosty the Snowman joined the Christmas lexicon in a song written and performed in 1950.

    A 1957 book by Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas introduced another character now affixed to the holiday. 

    In fact, he says, the phrase “Merry Christmas” no longer carries religious connotations in the public marketplace, but rather refers to a massive winter holiday season celebrated by people of all kinds. 

    “We truthfully have two separate and distinct holidays,” he writes. “We should admit it and do something about it!” 

    “I suggest we separate the ‘Winter Christmas’ traditions from the ‘Christian Christmas’ traditions,” he suggests.

    “I believe the two traditions can be ‘unblended’ without harming either. They can exist side-by-side in ways that can affirm both.”  

    McKinney says people of all faiths would benefit from a clear distinction between a non-religious winter holiday and a highly religious Christian Christmas. He proposes the term “Christmas” be used only by Christians in a religious sense, while the secular celebration be renamed a “Winter Holiday.” 

    The Winter Holiday would continue to begin many weeks before Dec. 25, enjoy the non-religious elements now associated with Christmas and end with post-Christmas sales on Dec. 26. 

    The Christian Christmas would follow preparation through Advent, begin Christmas Day, and continue into the New Year.

    McKinney said Leawood Baptist Church is learning to think of Dec. 25 as the beginning of the Twelve days of Christmas. 

    The church brings out decorations on Christmas Eve and leaves them up through Epiphany. Many small groups and Sunday school classes have their Christmas parties after Dec. 25. 

    “We strive to think of Dec. 25 as the beginning of our sacred holiday and with the idea of spiritual renewal carrying the spirit of Christmas (Christ) into the New Year,” McKinney said.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
    11/30/2009 6:18:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 6 comments

Well, ya'll inspired me to write more on this subject.
12/2/2009 3:55:01 PM

Gene Scarborough
My seminary friend, Steve Ackerman, now living near Mt. Mitchell, told me of a Christmas where his father encouraged each child to pick out a present under the tree to carry to a family across town which would have no Christmas. Steve said it was one of the most eye-opening and heart-touching Christmases he ever had.

What would happen if on the first day of school, many children told of how they helped someone enjoy Christmas with a gift they should have gotten if all we focused on "getting?"

Steve is the genuine caring person he is today because his father led the way one special Christmas!
12/2/2009 3:29:49 PM

The goal is to separate materialism from our celebration of Christ's birth. Taking it seriously subjects our children to embarrassment when hit with the horrible first-day-back-at-school question of "What did you get for Christmas?" It takes early training and conscious action to explain to your children why you are giving money to missions instead of buying them a new IPod. It might be even harder for parents to tell grandpa and grandma (especially grandma) that they prefer fewer gifts for the children who are getting a warped sense of the holiday. Gift giving is good as a sign of love and generosity through the year. But pity the people pummelled by expectations to buy things no one needs with money they don't have to meet obligations they only imagine.
12/2/2009 11:52:30 AM

Gene Scarborough
The Pagans always distorted Christian tradition and skewed it to their personal needs more often than bending personal needs to meet standards set by Christ.

As usual, the almighty dollar is attached to sacred and secular.

What would be the problem with forgoing senseless Christmas "things" and going to hurting people with an offer to help the pay the light bill / insurance / food / etc.?

Is a "Singing Christmas Tree" performance worth all the man hours which could be spent in relating to hurting people at fast food restaurants, where a "How are things going?" question might be met with surprising tales of woe!!!
12/1/2009 12:24:57 PM

Brent Hobbs
Interesting viewpoint here. I really appreciate the desire to separate materialism from the celebration of the birth of the Son of God who became poor for our sakes.
11/30/2009 10:37:13 PM

Ron Caulder
This may sound good in theory but it's like try to unscrample an egg. Plus, I don't think the idea of isolating ourselves as Christians from the world is a good idea. Our world needs to be reminded that Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world! Christmas gives us a wonderful opportunity to express our faith and to share our faith in Christ who is the Light of the world. Most of our churches celebrate Advent beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas in anticipation as we remember the events leading up to the birth of our Lord. Let's not take this away! Let's be in the world (with the Good News of Jesus Christ) all during the Christmas season! On the flip side, I like the idea of the continuation of our celebration up to Epiphany. I think this is where we have failed most miserably as Christians and where we have become too much like the world. The day after Christmas should be even more joyous for the Christian. Let's celebrate our faith this Christmas season and on into eternity!!
11/30/2009 2:09:48 PM

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