Be Careful Using the 'C' Word in Public

There’s an old saying that goes: if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then it must be a duck.  But as the latest campaign in the unwavering war against one of the most sacred days of the year demonstrates, this simple litmus test might not always apply.  

The cold wind blows as beautiful snowflakes fall to the ground; houses are adorned with twinkling lights; on street corners everywhere fraternal and church groups are selling freshly cut evergreen trees.  It looks like Christmas.

Radio stations are eagerly deviating from their normal formats and breaking most of the rules of modern, homogenized radio to play the “sounds of the season” — either intermittently or 24/7.  I hear many of my favorites — Joy to the World, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Blue Christmas or Little Saint Nick — streaming through my car speakers…clearly, it sounds like Christmas.

When you combine the music, weather and scenery with the tangible excitement exemplified by little children waiting to tell the jolly fellow dressed in red what’s on their “wish list,” it sure feels like Christmas.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year.  It is a chance to reflect upon the greatest gift God has granted each — our life — in the context of the humble life Christ assumed when the Word became Flesh.  I treasure the wonderful memories and good times that come from being with family and friends.  This year is extra special for my wife and me because it is our daughter’s first Christmas.  Just thinking about this challenges me to control my anticipation as much as waiting for Santa does most children.

But if you pay close attention to many of the ads on TV and radio, the jingles played between songs, the wording of most greeting cards, and the general attitude afforded this time of year, you can call this holiday many things: but none dare call it Christmas.

We are all too familiar with the scenarios: atheist sues city over nativity scene; ACLU says portrait of the Madonna (the Mother of God, not the singer) covered in cow dung is protected speech, but elementary school Christmas play is hate crime. And so it goes year after year.  It is absurd and frustrating, but should not be too easily dismissed as a “phase” we will get past if we just ignore the problem.

There is good news and bad news in this battle.  The good news is that this is not the most hostile society has been toward Christianity and its sacred traditions.  The bad news is that we’re on a collision course to letting the past repeat itself.  The time to take a stand against future persecution is now.

One of the aforementioned classic holiday tunes serves as the perfect example of the ghost of Christmas persecution past and what will become the ghost of Christmas persecution future if we don’t soon wise up.  If you, like me, have been tuned in to the local station playing all Christmas songs all the time, you’ve undoubtedly heard “The 12 Days of Christmas” several times by now.  Apparently, radio programmers didn’t get the “memo” about not using the “C-word” in public.

“The 12 Days of Christmas” is more than just a whimsical, well-rhymed song.  It was actually written during a period in England (1559-1829) when it was illegal for Catholics to practice their faith.  It was designed as a “catechism song,” with each verse delivering a coded message about the fundamental tenets of the faith.   The idea was that Catholics could sing the song without fear of retribution, but the memory aids built into it would help the children learn the faith.

The “true love” mentioned in the song represents God the Father, not an earthly suitor, and the recipient (“me”) represents the baptized person.  A few other examples from the song include:  the partridge in a pear tree was Christ on the cross; two turtle doves symbolized the Old and New Testaments; four calling birds signified the four evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; ten lords a-leaping stood for the Ten commandments; and the 12 drummers drumming denoted the 12 points of belief expressed in the Apostles Creed.

It took an act of the English Parliament in 1829 to end the undue persecution of Catholics in Britain, but as another saying goes, those who are ignorant to history are bound to repeat it.   While it is true that a key component of the Christian faith is to endure suffering, American Christians would be foolish to turn a blind eye to harbingers of a new period that outlaws the belief in Christ.

Less than 200 years have passed since the emancipation of Catholics in England.  Now we live in a world where the worship of self and material goods is celebrated; where those who seek to honor our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage are ridiculed at best and castigated at worst.  And now, we are told that in the name of “tolerance,” Christians and their holidays simply can’t be tolerated.  

The fact is, you cannot have Christmas without Christ.  That’s not to say that individuals cannot celebrate December 25 in some secularized way — that is their prerogative if they so choose.  But it does not give others the right to rob us of the true origin and nature of the celebration.  So, Merry Christmas to you all!


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