One of the most ironic of Christmas messages is “peace on earth.” The irony comes in the means of declaring that peace. Apparently first-century angels were declaring peace to the entire world, according to Luke. The peace that we see proffered, however, often extends only to those like us. What is the harm in extending Christmas joy to all? Must one be a Christian of a particular stripe before the joy of giving can be bestowed? Over the last several years various Christian groups have sought to reclaim ownership of the holiday they borrowed from the pagan Romans, Celts, and Anglo-Saxons. Make it exclusively ours. Peace to us, and let others find their own way home.
In a season of charitable giving, understanding seems to have fallen off the list of Saint Nicholas. In his guise as Santa Claus he makes the rounds of the entire world, according to the mythology that children are told. Do we ever really picture Santa delivering gifts to those who live in Iran, North Korea, or Afghanistan? Does peace on earth apply to them? The thing about peace is, unless everybody has it nobody has it.
Can we learn to share Christmas? Those who fret over Xmas forget that first-century Christians abbreviated Christ with an X (chi in Greek), just as they represented him by a highly stylized fish. Today an empty fish on your bumper declares what an X cannot, apparently. The message is that Christmas belongs to us, not secular pretenders who just want an excuse to make their kids happy. For most of the history of Christianity, Christmas had been a low-key event, barely noticed by most of the faithful. When the possibility of material gain was added in, however, the holiday became especially holy. Should we share the doctrine but not the gain, or should we make Christmas a gift to all the world – a season when all might reasonably hope for peace?