Leaving Christ out of Christmas

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2004

Christmas time in New York is an incredible time.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated at the sights and sounds of the season. Despite the bone-chilling cold weather and relentless traffic, there is something magical about the city that time of year that still beacons me from within.

Maybe it’s a state of temporary insanity, but it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, when Christmas season comes, home is where the heart is and my heart is in New York.

In fact, some of my best memories revolve around my high school days of literally decking the halls with my classmates just before Christmas break.

Every year, the administration would allow us to take time out from academics to transform our halls of education into an enchanted winter wonderland.

What a sense of accomplishment we felt when the last decoration was hung and we stepped back to look at the artistic collaboration. I still smile when I look back at the pictures of the lockers covered in brightly colored gift wrap, with hanging evergreen branches and lights amidst symbols that reflected the religious celebrations of Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.

It was the product of teamwork and though it was challenging at times the result was something we were all proud of.

It spoke of the typical mosaic of faiths that give New York its eclectic and unique character, a mosaic that is evident in everything from the variety of foods and fashion to the diverse composition of small businesses and community events.

That’s the beauty of being in America. People of different beliefs and customs can exist along side one another and live out their own convictions on the same soil.

So, when I heard about a Christian group being prohibited from participating in Denver’s annual Parade of Lights &uot;because church members sought to sing yuletide hymns and proclaim(ed) a ‘Merry Christmas’ message on their float,&uot; I was deeply troubled.

In search of more on the subject, I looked online and found the article mentioned earlier on the news broadcast I had been listening to.

The author, Joe Kovacs, executive news director for World Net Daily, explained that although the event was in its 30th year and was scheduled to feature &uot;highly decorated floats with symbols of the holiday season, such as Santa Claus, gingerbread houses and toy soldiers, along with what’s billed as an ‘international procession to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region,’&uot; including &uot;homosexual American Indians, Kung Fu artisans (and) belly dancers,&uot; the message of Christ was not welcome.

Isn’t there something wrong with this picture when so many recognize Jesus as the symbol for the holiday season? If others were allowed to display their symbols of celebration during the parade, inappropriate as they may be, wouldn’t it stand to reason that churches would be able to display theirs as well?

Because of our deeply rooted Christian heritage, celebrating the birth of Christ is a tradition that has been handed down throughout history from family to family and regardless of what others might say, it is an integral part of who we are as individuals as well as a country.

After all, where would these people be were it not for the freedoms they too inherited as a result of the sacrifice of our founding fathers and the many who died to preserve the ideals of the freedom of speech and religious expression?

According to the article, parade spokesman Michael Krikorian said the event would neither allow &uot;direct religious themes&uot; nor permit signs that read &uot;Merry Christmas&uot; or even allow &uot;the singing or playing of Christmas hymns&uot;.

Are we still living in America folks? Where are the freedom, the tolerance and the talk of diversity now?

Ironically, churches here in Ahoskie were invited to participate in the town’s Christmas parade on November 20, yet not one float beheld the celebrated King of Kings.

Why, when given the opportunity to exercise our freedom of religious expression in the public square, do we so often neglect to do so?

Have we grown so complacent or become so busy that we simply disregard the opportunities set before us to testify of God’s great and wonderful gift of salvation in Christ?

The pastor in Kovacs’ article, who requested participation in the Denver event, did so because he was concerned that the celebration lacked &uot;any connection with Christianity.&uot;

What’s our excuse?