I have gone back in forth in my mind about this topic over the years. But the recent debut of billboard wars
between atheists and Christians leads me to say something about this.
Perhaps you are now thinking that I will blast the atheists and tell them why they are wrong. That Christians did not steal Christmas and that it is not a myth. Well, I am not.
What really bothers me is the Christian response of "defending Christmas". Defending it from what? That somebody says it is a myth? So what, that is exactly what I expect an unbeliever to think and say. What is being protected? Jesus? I hardly think that is either possible or necessary.
I think the problem is that many (American) Christians are just as steeped in the commercialism and greed of Christmas as those who have no faith profession. And we use the claim that it's Jesus' birthday as a shield for our over indulgences. Since the 19th century the holiday has been slowly moving in a decidedly non-religious direction and Christians have helped it along in many ways.
I wonder what percentage of Christians go to church on Christmas eve. Or even more importantly, how many go to Church on Christmas day when it happens to land on a Sunday? I remember the debates a few years ago about whether or not churches should be open on a Sunday that also happened to be Christmas. But if we really believe that Christmas is the significant day in the religious calendar we claim it is, than why not? This would seem to be more important than a tree and presents in the morning. (By way of self-disclosure, I did not go to church that day. I stayed home and opened presents with my wife. So, yes I could be accused of throwing stones in glass houses here).
Some may claim that it is important to defend Christmas because it is a significant event in salvation history. Granted, the Christian celebration of Jesus' birth is important and should be celebrated. But it is NOT the foundation of Christianity. More important is the claim of Christ's resurrection. It does not matter whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin. What is important is that he was raised from the dead.
This seems to be the focus of the New Testament authors as well. Jesus' birth is only mentioned in two of the four Gospels, and with very different details. Mark says nothing about Jesus' birth nor does John. In fact, except for Matthew and Luke no other New Testament writer mentions or alludes to any miraculous circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. Paul notes that Jesus was born of a woman (Gal 4:4) and that he was of the line David (Romans 1:4). But Paul never mentions a virgin birth. True, he and many of the other New Testament writers call Jesus "the Son of God," but that is not a reference to a miraculous birth.
But the one thing that you read time and time again in the Gospels, Paul and the rest of the New Testament is the importance of Jesus' resurrection. This is what made Jesus different and the Son of God (Romans 1:4). There were numerous stories in antiquity of famous people who had "unusual births" some more fantastic than that of Jesus. But for the early church it was not Jesus' birth, but his resurrection that demonstrated his importance.
Yet modern Christians pay little attention to Easter. This is a day we will go to church. But that is because it always falls on Sunday and we rarely pack the day with the kind and amount of events that we would Christmas. Besides, Easter has that pesky habit of moving its date every year which makes it hard for retailers to plan "Easter sales".
No I am not suggesting that we abandon Christmas. I admit that I enjoy the decorations and the carols and even giving gifts.
But I do think we would do well to rethink it and put more energy into Easter. I also don't we feel the need to "defend Christmas". The truth is we can't. Christmas is a Christian holiday that is not celebrated as such by the Christians. We are just as distracted about the meaning of the day as are the atheists.
Christmas does not need defending.