I know it is nothing new that Christmas has become secularized. From the Happy Holiday wars to the removal of the nativity scenes, the reason we celebrate Christmas has finally left the building. I had an epiphany the other night as I was driving around with my kids doing some Christmas shopping listening to my favorite Christmas album, John Denver and the Muppets’ Christmas. (It is actually a rough album, but has a high sentimental value for me.)
As we listened to the story of Alphie I was reminded again the wide variety of meaning people have put on Christmas. Well, way back in 1979 we get some strange theology from John Denver and his enormous love for the outdoors combined with a cultural understanding of Christmas.
What stood out to me was the fact that John Denver is not a Christian by any means. If anything he was a pantheist. But because he grew up in a culture that was generally “Christian” he knew enough that if you are talking about Christmas, you are talking about the the Son of God, peace on earth, and the brotherhood of man.
That was in 1979. Now, over 30 years have gone by and our cultural understanding has increasingly become secular. No news there. But think of the students that you work with, think of their peers. Unlike John Denver, they are growing up in a culture that have absolutely zero space for Jesus at Christmas. So much so, that He isn’t even missed.
Of course our “Christian” kids know why we celebrate Christmas and can regurgitate some of the facts back about the original Christmas story and the meaning of it. But even our smartest, most spiritual, Christian kids are missing huge chucks of the story. Their friends, the students that we want to reach with the gospel have zero understanding of Jesus and what happened on Christmas. To get to the why is a gigantic leap.
As adults who work with students it is easy to think that they have a strong cultural understanding of Christmas that is becoming secular. But I would argue that the students outside our churches have absolutely no idea why we celebrate Christmas. In our context, maybe 1% of students have been to a Christian church in the last 6 months. That is an large part of our population that is having a smaller and smaller understanding of the most amazing event in all of history.
Gone are the days when secular artists include songs about Jesus in their Christmas albums. And the ones that do, like my main man Justin B, simply uses religious imagery to express his over the top infatuation with his latest fling.
This is not “the sky is falling” observation. It is simply an admission that the Jesus train has left the building. If we are going to communicate the gospel to a context that has no cultural understanding of Christmas, incarnation, humility, sin, redeption, or salvation, then we must be incredibly wise in both the world and the spirit if we are going to introduce this next generation to the King of Kings who became flesh on Christmas morning, to usher in a new kingdom, a new way to live both now and forever more!