I still remember that commercial from 40 years ago. I don't remember what it was supposed to have advertised, but I remember the message. It began with Santa Claus laughing his "Ho! Ho! Ho!" around a living room that was filled with Christmas decorations. He began to empty his big of brightly wrapped gifts, then paused by the end table to enjoy the cookies and milk that were left out for him. After some more jolly laughing he stopped at looked at the Christmas tree. At once, his laughter stopped. The jolly smile slowly left his face as it was being replaced by a look of deep contemplation. The camera angle changed and showed that he was staring at a small Christmas ornament. Inside the clear Christmas ornament was a nativity scene. The camera zoomed in and focused on the nativity scene as the image of Santa Clauses look of quiet reflection went out of focus.
I understand what the creators of that commercial were trying to do. Even forty years ago, there were those who were complaining about the crass commercialism of Christmas. The fast pace lights, glitter, music, and bustling sounds of holiday activity along with its price tags replaced the simply and silent wonder of divinity becoming flesh. I have heard people speak of putting "Christ" back into "Christmas." I have also heard people defiantly wishing people a "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays." There is understandably a desire to hang on to the baby Jesus and not let him get swallowed up.
But is this actually what's happening? What does it mean to put "Christ" back into Christmas? Are we talking about being able to say "Merry Christmas" without any repercussions? Are we talking about more religious decorations and nativity scenes? Are we talking about children singing Joy to the World rather than Jingle Bells for the school winter program? How important would all of this be to Jesus? It seems to me that a lot of this from the past was cultural window dressing. It was a veneer of religiosity for the holiday season. I think we all recognize very clearly what Jesus thought of this sort of thing from his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7.
This worry about Jesus being swallowed up reminds me of a passage in the book of Revelation. Here is what the birth of Christ looked like from a cosmic perspective.
"And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne" (Rev 12:4-5).
The dragon, the serpent of old who is called Satan and The Devil, tried to swallow up the child. However, the child was caught up to God and his throne. We know that Jesus died for our sin, was buried, rose from the grave, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and we know that he ascended to the heavens, according to Acts 1:9. 1 Corinthians 15:25 tells us that he now reigns in his Kingdom, which is in us, his people, according to Luke 17:21, and will do so until the last enemy, which is death, is destroyed.
Neither Satan nor the culture can swallow up the Christ. What is important is not putting Christ into Christmas, but putting Christ into our hearts. Jesus' goal was not putting his name on a day for the calendar, but his name in our hearts so that every day is for him.