I have been visiting with relatives for the holiday season, and part of the seasonal tradition is to watch Christmas movies on TV. This smorgasbord of nostalgia and idealism in the midst of extreme materialism typifies the dilemma that I find myself in regarding so many ideals in today's world. Good and evil are inextricably mixed together, and what it takes to disentangle them may cause more harm than good.

The Bible talks about a field in which there are good plants and weeds growing together. It warns of the danger that pulling up the weeds could cause to the good plants, and it says that the two should be allowed to grow together, at least for a little while. (Matthew 13:24-30) I have, in the past, considered how this could apply to the situation in many churches, where people sincerely believe that their churches (and/or church leaders) are genuinely following God. If one is too harsh in criticising the church or its leaders, they could easily damage such delicate faith.

I see a similar situation with regard to Christmas celebrations. Christmas movies usually include good lessons about faith, love, sharing with others who are less fortunate than ourselves, and learning to appreciate our families. I certainly do not want to be seen as opposing such positive truths. People clearly make more effort to be loving and generous during the month of December than they do the rest of the year. If we threw away Christmas, the world would have very little idealism left. So anyone who would dare to criticise Christmas and all that it brings with it, could easily be seen as a Scrooge and a skeptic, rather than a messenger of truth.

The dilemma, however, is that the way forward spiritually may first involve some of what would appear to be backward steps. To arrive at true Christian maturity, we must be prepared to leave behind the schmaltz and tradition of the non-Christian world. We need to see that emotionalism and sentiment can actually blind us to the greater truth that God has for us.

But what about the story of the weeds and the wheat that I mentioned above, where both are allowed to grow together? Jesus told another story about a field which contained both good plants and weeds. In that story, he said that the weeds choked the good plants, stopping them from maturing to the place where they could bring forth fruit. (Mark 4:2-20) The implication was that the weeds at least needed to be identified as evil. Even with the first story, he only instructed his followers to let the two grow together "for a time". At the end of the world, he said, his messengers would gather together the good plants, and burn the rest.  We may be living in that time.

There is a time and place for pulling out the weeds, exposing the lies, and speaking the truth... even if it hurts a little. I believe that we are living in those last days, and that God wants us to at least figuratively gather together his faithful followers. The Lord says, "Come out from among them, and do not touch the unclean thing, and then I will receive you." (2 Corinthians 6:17) In The Revelation, God says about the god of this world (called Babylon, or Confusion), "Come out of her, my people." (Revelation 18:4) I believe there is much of Babylon in the Christmas hype. It has caused great confusion for many sincere individuals. It may be time to face some uncomfortable truths about the Christmas season and all that goes with it.

Let's start with a little experiment. Take ten or twenty of the latest and most popular Christmas movies and study them to see how much of the real Christmas story gets a mention in them. It is not as though a movie has to mention the name of Jesus, or even mention God in order to have a genuinely Christian message. But when the subject is CHRISTmas (i.e. the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God), then is it asking too much for us to expect that the One whose birthday we are supposedly celebrating by watching these movies should get some kind of mention?

Now compare what little recognition Jesus gets with the glory that a guy named Santa Claus gets in all of those movies. And notice how some of them actually have the fat guy moving in to take over the role of Jesus, if not God himself.

Is this really just an innocent mistake, or is there a kind of unspoken spiritual conspiracy to replace Jesus with a counterfeit? I realise that Saint Nicholas may well have been a genuine Christian himself. But it doesn't matter whether it is Mary the mother of Jesus, the Pope, Billy Graham, or Saint Paul, the Bible says that our loyalty to Jesus should be such that we would be prepared to curse anyone else if they came preaching another gospel than the one that we have received. (Galatians 1:8) It's not Mary's fault that so many people have taken to worshipping her instead of God. But it is our fault if we refuse to speak up and set things right when we see what is going on. And the same applies to the Santa Claus conspiracy.

Returning to the Christmas movies, you will notice that such Christmas traditions as Christmas trees, gifts, food, and shopping all get a mention in them. Things like Christmas carols and nativity plays are getting less and less mention these days, and even when they are woven in with the plot, the script carefully steers away from serious treatment of Jesus himself. Stars, angels, shepherds, decked halls, and an occasional 'silent night' all take pride of place. The subject changes or the words to the song fade out before we get to direct reference to the source of all that is true and beautiful about Christmas.

The Lord himself lies bound and gagged in the back room, while his message of faith, hope and charity is given to a fat man in a red suit, a man whom all thinking adults know is a lie. Is it really fair for Christians to sit back and say nothing when this is going on?

Faith, hope, and love are all sorely needed in today's world, and we would not want to be guilty of rejecting anyone who comes bringing such a message. But dare we ask first: Faith in whom? Hope in what? and Love to what degree? We will take a closer look.

Faith

For us as Christians, faith must at least be in God, if not specifically in Jesus. Faith in ourselves or in our families, faith in Santa or some other good person, faith in our country or our church, or faith in angels is not enough. Such faith can be appreciated and respected in those who do not know any better; but such faith must not take the place of the real thing, which is faith in God, the Creator of the Universe, and faith in the life and teachings of his Son, Jesus, as contained in the Bible.

Hope

For us as Christians, our hope is in the resurrection, and in the second coming of Jesus. This is a world of unimaginable beauty and joy, and yet it is being ridiculed by a world that would prefer to live in their own Fantasyland creations.  The Christian hope enables us to face poverty, injustice, persecution, and even death with joyful hearts. There is no comparison between this kind of hope and the millions of short-sighted (if not totally selfish) wishes of the masses at Christmas time.  There are some incredibly difficult times ahead for anyone who wants to stay faithful to Jesus, but there is a real resurrection, a real kingdom, and real eternal life as well.  Sadly, the secular Christmas message does not prepare us for any of it.

Charity

For us as Christians, true love (or charity) means a willingness to sacrifice everything that we own (even our lives if necessary) to take God's love to the rest of the world. This goes beyond romance and beyond spending any amount of money on toys. Even in our families, what is really needed is not more spending but more time with one another and with God.

In closing, we are touched by the message of faith, hope, and charity that still comes through in some of the Christmas hype... but please forgive us if we do not share the total satisfaction that others appear to find from such offerings.

Please forgive us if, in our efforts to uproot some of the lies, we offend your own appreciation of Christmas idealism and traditions.