The governor's recent debacle calling for a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree underscores how politically charged Christmas has become in recent years and how the negative current from an unhappy electorate can shock the starch out of one's political socks. Of course, Gov. Beshear backpedaled in his decision faster than Ebeneezer Scrooge after being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Gov. Beshear argued that Christmas shouldn't be politicized--even in the midst of politicizing it. That is already old news, I know. He repented and we should forgive, for sure. But it seems that a government steeped in political correctness and a people mired in an identity crisis of sorts can learn something in the brouhaha over contemporary Christmas politics.
Those on the sidelines in this PC equivalent of a snowball fight will insist that Christmas is all about exchanging gifts, family gatherings, good food and drink, church plays with kids dressed up as donkeys and sheep, and seasonal carols. Of course, they're right, Christmas is all these things. but even while some may forget what to call the green tree strung with ornaments and bright lights we find in living rooms across the country at this time of year, we should remember what it is we celebrate--an easy thing to lose sight of in the shadow of Black Friday.
Central to Christmas is celebration of the Christ, the one the prophet Isaiah spoke about 700 years before the shepherds found him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a Bethlehem manger. It's probably the least favored holiday today for those who embrace identity politics and worship at the altar of multiculturalism. Some wish Christmas away, or at least any official recognition of it. In Leesburg, Virginia, not only is the Christmas tree off limits this year, but so is the Crèche and Menorah. In Manitowac, WI, for the first time since WWII, the nativity will not be allowed on the county courthouse lawn. When the seasonal grinches and scrooges can't ban crèche's from the public square, they superimpose other holidays and invent myriad other reasons for celebration.
Perhaps the politicization of Christmas began with Isaiah's prophecy when he said the "government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end." Can't this be interpreted to be a political statement as much as a theological statement? At least Herod thought so, that's why he set about to butcher every male baby in Judea. Isaiah's prophecy brings us full circle to why Christmas is still marginalized by some government officials today. They aren't interested in sharing the stage with another king, least of all, the King of Kings as Christians recognize Jesus to be.
So enmeshed are political implications in the first Christmas story that we're still dealing with the aftermath today--both on courthouse lawns and in the realm of public morals. In fact, what better backdrop than the first Christmas to review the moral and philosophical battles we face today? After all, Jesus was born to an unwed, teenage mother. Mary was maybe 14 or 15 years of age. Amidst the rumors of sexual immorality, her betrothed husband Joseph considered divorce. Neither of them buckled. Mary didn't abort, as she'd be encouraged to today. Joseph didn't push for divorce and took on the responsibility of fatherhood. What seemed like a mess for the young couple turned into the most beautiful story of all history--the incarnation of God who came to save sinners.
The prevailing political tide may continue to whitewash the public square of any Christmas references and politicians may refuse to call a Christmas tree what it is. But regardless of what any government does, they cannot sweep away the real import of Christmas, and the joy in the hearts of those who celebrate it.