As I got off the plane in Vietnam, the realities of being in a foreign country quickly set in. It was December and it was hot. Really hot. December in Vietnam feels a lot like our summer season.
But something else was different. I had stepped off an American plane and onto communist soil. Although the stores and streets proudly displayed Christmas novelties and decorations, openly sharing my faith was now illegal.
Feeling the need to downplay our faith at Christmas time isn’t unique to communist countries. It’s a sentiment that is becoming increasingly prevalent here in America, even though we live in a free country. The underlying message of our culture is encouraging us to embrace silence. Our nation, which was built on the idea of religious freedom, has become overly sensitive about political correctness and confused about the nature of truth.
A Politically Correct Christmas
The Golden Rule has been revised to fit the 21st century. The new standard of conduct reads “Never, ever offend anyone”. Violating this rule can lead to public humiliation and social alienation. At times, the only acceptable offense seems to be relegating Christianity as obscure and obsolete. This is never clearer than at Christmastime.
In true Grinch like fashion, secularists have snuck into the village known as America and taken our Christmas tree – literally. While such decorations are not crucial for presenting the gospel, it is indicative of a larger agenda to mute the Christian witness.
Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, describes the secular agenda as an, “effort to remove all symbols, representations, references, and images related to Christianity from the public square.” We are now encouraged to change our salutations to omit the name of Christ and refer to our hewn-down decorated pines as “holiday trees.”
The alternative to observing a generic holiday is to give equal space to every other known religious winter celebration. Nothing could be more politically correct than a greeting card that reads, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Rockin’ Ramadan and if you are an Atheist or Agnostic, we wish you the best nature has to offer this winter.” Christmas has been rebranded as the “everything to everyone” winter shopping season.
A Postmodern Nativity
There was a time when Christmas was about Christ. We live in a day when it seems to be more politically acceptable to place atheistic messages on billboards than to say “Merry Christmas.” The philosophical ethos of our day mixed with an obsession for never offending can discourage us from boldly declaring what we believe to be true.
Our students probably understand this better than we do. From the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep they are bombarded with postmodern messages aimed at shaping the way they think – even how they think about their faith.
You might be surprised to know that teenagers often filter what they hear in church through the contemporary mind-set of the culture. This is the progression of the prevalent philosophy of the day working its way from pop culture into the church, what Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, once called the “line of despair.” Your student may very well see the Christmas story as something that is true for them without acknowledging it as an absolute truth with consequences for the rest of the world.
When a student devoid of a biblical worldview steps out of the church and into an adverse culture, she can become confused. To posses a vibrant faith, she needs a proper foundation for understanding and evaluating the world she inhabits. Christmas is a great time to reinforce the historical basis of Christianity and to remind her of the reliability of the gospel accounts.
A Parental Plan
This Christmas take the time to talk candidly with your teen about the obstacles he faces in living out his faith. Make an investment in understanding the cultural challenges of his generation so that you can help him speak with confidence. Model a faithful Christian witness to your friends, family members, and neighbors. Most of all, pray that your teenager will grow in spiritual maturity and be established in his faith so he won’t be tossed around by the philosophies of the day (See Colossians 2).
It really is OK to talk about Jesus during the Christmas season. At least that’s the mindset I took in Vietnam. Surprisingly, in spite of the political tone, people were eager to discuss the historical events that we celebrate each year on December 25. There is no limit to the impact that you and your family can have – in word and deed – as you determine to celebrate a Merry Christmas.
This article is published in the December 2009 edition of Living With Teenagers, a magazine produced by LifeWay Christian Resources. Article title as it appears in magazine: Avoiding the Trap of a Cultural Christmas. Author: Dan DeWitt. Published at Theolatte.com with permission.
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