Discerning Mission

Keeping Christmas

Courtney Young is a graduate of Luther Seminary - M.Div. with an emphasis in Congregational Mission and Leadership.  Missional, a Millennial, and a new mother, Courtney shares her thoughts with us here:

Now that Christmas is over, way over, can we please talk about Christmas?  I hold this idea that if something actually matters, you will talk about it before it is right on top of you.  So here it goes - during the Christmas season, my Facebook feed fills up with all sorts of questions about how we keep Christmas in this country.  This is what I've noticed.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, my Facebook feed fills up with two versions of the same question - is Santa killing Christmas?  The pleasant side posts sentimental pictures of blue-eyed Jesus assuring me that he is, in fact, the "reason for the season."  (As if "Christ"-mas isn't enough.)  The more aggressive side pits Santa and Jesus against each other in some cosmic battle over the month of December.  And every year, I roll my eyes.  I mean, he's a saint, isn't he?  Aren't they on the same team?  He can't be that bad.

A little farther into December my more liturgically conscientious comrades raise a question of their own - is Christmas killing Advent?  They bemoan the use of Christmas music before December 25th.  They post pictures of purple and pink candles.  They try to preserve the hope and anticipation of Advent.

The problem with both these questions is that they assume that everyone who celebrates Christmas considers themselves a Christian.  By posing these questions, they are trying to fix the celebration of the birth of Christ.  But not all those who celebrate Christmas are celebrating the birth of Christ.

Last Christmas I read a poignant blog post that asked a different question - Should I even be celebrating Christmas?  This question matters because it is the question that young adults, my generation, are asking themselves as they celebrate Christmas by buying presents, putting up decorations, and listening to their favorite seasonal songs.  They ask themselves this because theyknow that Christmas is a religious holiday butthey are not religious.  They also ask themselves this question because they love the traditions of Christmas, the time with their families, and the hope and promise of the season (isn't that what Advent is about, anyway?), but they aren't sure they should be taking part in a holiday celebrating the birth of a Christ they don't know if they believe in.

"Is Santa killing Christmas?" and "What about Advent?" are not questions that speak to the experiences of young adults.  They are just not relevant or helpful and may actually be harmful.  These questions alienate people who already feel alienated.  They force a person with an uncertain faith who keeps nostalgic Christmas traditions to either claim their place as an insider or an outsider.  The force will make them walk away with disgust instead of having their unsure faith tended to.

One of my wishes for next Christmas is that my Facebook feed might fill up with questions that actually matter to young adults.  Not questions that make them feel like outsiders or broken Christians. 

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