Killing off Baby Jesus
By: Kethleen LaPlante – December, 2010
That is what Christmas is about these days. Killing off and eliminating Baby Jesus from the Christmas season. It’s infanticide, of sorts.
For example, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukah and Season’s Greetings are okay, but Merry Christmas is out. Holiday Gathering and Tree Lighting Day are okay, but Christmas Party is not. Santa Claus and his reindeer and elves are in all the stores and homes, but St. Nicholas has long been forgotten.
The extended gift buying in December, and now November, has become the norm. The shift occurred during World War II, when many Americans were stationed overseas in the military. People here bought their gifts early in December to insure that the packages would arrive in time for Christmas. Merchants enjoyed the extra revenue that year, that they expanded advertising and sales of Christmas merchandise earlier into December on an ongoing basis. Commercialization is now rampant.
Christmas carols are often diluted or replaced with secular songs. (Heaven forbid we say the name of Jesus in public.) Prayers are nowhere to be found in family celebrations, and employees are told to take down their pictures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, because they might offend someone.
This de-Christianization of Christmas has greater problems. Other things get killed off with Baby Jesus. For instance, Advent is gone. It is the pre-Christmas preparation for the coming of Jesus, and it has been replaced with the extended gift buying season mentioned above. February 2 is another example. It has traditionally been a marking of the Presentation of Baby Jesus in the Temple. It is 40 days after Christmas, because in Hebrew tradition, the 40th day after birth is considered the last stage of birth when the mother brings the child to Temple. This Feast Day has been replaced with Groundhog Day.
All is not lost, though. There are ways we can reverse the trend. We can speak up about the dangers of removing Nativity scenes, and point out the benefits of keeping them. Instead of remaining silent, we can dare to say Merry Christmas to others. We can also bring St. Nicholas back into Christmas celebrations, and curb extensive gift buying, replacing it with Advent and its wonderful practices for reflection and preparation.
We can do something new, like learn the genealogy of Jesus. His lineage is recorded in two places in the Bible, Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–38. One account is from Joseph’s side, and the other is from Mary’s side. Both accounts are rich with interesting characters that can be weaved into the Christmas story. The origin of the date of Christmas, December 25, is another topic that can be researched. For many years, people thought it was arbitrarily chosen in an attempt to override a pagan holiday, but it was not. Recent research by Thomas J. Talley testifies to that.
Taking any of these steps can gradually bring Baby Jesus back to life, and lead to a revitalization of Christianity, something we terribly need. Ben Stein, a speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford, could see this back in 2005. At that time, he provided some insightful commentary about what I call the infanticide of Baby Jesus.
He said, “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.”
Along those lines, Merry Christmas to all!
Kathleen Laplante is a member of the Catholic Church. She can be reached at email@example.com