Yes, men that is what it has come to during this Christmas Holiday. A display of a skeleton in a Santa Claus suit was placed on a cross that was then erected on the courthouse in Leesburg, Va. A spokesperson for the county explained, “The board of Supervisors currently has a policy in place to allow display on the courthouse lawn. There are only 9 display sites that are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. This applicants (for the crucifed Santa) choose the third week period” to show their display. The display was submitted by a high school student named Jeff Heflin, whose mother belongs to NOVA Atheists. The pupose of the display was to convey that the spirit of the holiday was killed off by commercialism. Rick Wingrove, of the NOVA Atheists said, “It was an art piece reflecting on the death of the true spirit of the holiday by greed and commercialism. It was anything but an attack on religion. It was, ironically, in line with a common complaint in the religious community about the hijacking of the holiday by big box retail interests.”
I ask you men, how can we get more confused about this time of year. It goes from bad to worse. If it gets any worse next year, we might be able to get the attention of the culture regarding the fact that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That is the simple, underlying theme of the Christmas season. But here we have a group of Atheists protesting the greed and commercialization of Christmas. They contend that “the spirit of of the holiday” has been “killed off by commercialism.” We can say a hardy Amen to that observation. But what does an Atheist group say about the real meaning of the season? What to them is the real spirit of the season? Again I contend that the message of the season has so been “erased” from the public square, that we are left with a “naked square” in which the symbols of transcedent belief in God have been lost.
Image the confusion that is created when people drive by and see a Santa crucified on a cross. These are two powerful symbols of belief, “Santa” and “a cross.” I seriously question Mr. Wingrove when he says that the display was not an attack on religion. Image this display being erected in heart of Bejing, China, for example. Some might make the connection with the religious themes. But most people would dismiss it as some kind of joke. But not here in America, especially at this time of the season. Why! Both Santa and the cross are loaded with religious and also cultural meaning. After all, we have celebrated Christmas in peace for many years. But not anymore. Why? Because we have lost touch with the symbols.
Men, I implore you to think through what you believe and why you believe it. Again, at the ripe, old age of 70, I have come to the place that I simply want to be “a humble, loving follower of Jesus.” I know what I believe about Christimas. Christmas is very, very special and significant for me. God became flesh – He became a man – a human being – someone who was both God and man. This is the story. Take time this season to think through the implications of Jesus becoming a man for you. In our day, it is no use getting all worked up about the demise of the season. Our job is to simply tell our story. People still need to hear. But they need to hear it in a new way – by simple story-telling – not just Jesus’ coming but also his death and resurrection. You need to tell the rest of the story.
I close with the words of Paul when he tells the story in I Cor 15. He is getting to the rest of the story. “The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest follwers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers, all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himsef alive to me.” (I Cor 15:3-9 – The Message). Men put your self at the end of this list. He appears among us alive today through the presence of His Holy Spirit. He comes to live in our heart – yes, the risen Lord who was born a man like you and me.