It took Christians a long time to recognize what was going on with the yearly news weekly cover stories explaining why modern "scholars" now have supposedly discovered that orthodox faith on such matters as the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, like the Resurrection, are just cultural reflections of various political and social movements. This kind of debunking in the past few years has recognized as the "war against Christmas," because serious religious faith (as opposed to consumerism and popular songs about winter) is a threat to another orthodoxy, secularism. The Christmas story has to be debunked or its public expression discouraged and/or banned.
It continues this year, of course. In recent days, just listening to NPR on the way home, I hear a slightly amused "Truth Squad" investigation into the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Matthew and Luke differ on details like the wise men and the shepherds, it is pointed out. This reflects the "needs" of theologians in the early Christian centuries, etc., etc. But the NPR segment is the kind of "Truth Squad" investigation that in political stories reveals more about the prejudice of the investigators than their targets. Many accounts in the Bible differ about details. So what? So do many histories of more recent events. It doesn't mean that the details are wrong or the events didn't happen.
The same evening as the NPR story I watch on PBS (funded by the same Corporation for Public Broadcasting) a documentary on the life of the Buddha. Here, orthodox Buddhist accounts are taken seriously, credulously. No irony, no second guessing, no bemused "experts". I enjoyed the film, but wondered why Buddhism a treatment not accorded to Christianity.
Nonetheless, I have to say that the defense of Christmas is making progress overall. Thanks to a number of public figures, including Jewish friends of Christians, such as Michael Medved and Dennis Praeger on their national talk shows, it is becoming more common to hear "Merry Christmas!" as a greeting or parting wish. Stores like Wal-mart that a while back bowed to political correctness and directed employees not to wish customers a Merry Christmas have relented. The evangelizing secularists still win most battles over whether a creche will be allowed on public property, but one senses that a mutli-cultural society that allows other religions' symbols will not continue to prevent Christianity's. (The National Catholic Register does a nice job of reviewing the news on this front.)
Likewise, a backlash against prohibiting Christian faith expression in Europe is seen in reactions to a European Commission production of a new annual "diary". The three million copies of the 2011 daily calendar carry no reference to Christmas or Easter, but do, according to journalist David Virtue on his online magazine, "mark Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Chinese festivities, as well as Europe Day and other key EU anniversaries." What's new, however, is that various Christian groups and elected members of the EU Parliament have mounted a vehement protest.
To put all this in perspective, it's worth while reading the article in Human Events by Discovery fellow Nancy Pearcey about the point of nativity scenes and the invention of creches by St. Francis of Assisi to underscore Jesus' human nature, as well as divine nature. Gnostics for centuries could not abide the thought that the spiritual could take material form, just as today's Gnostics cannot stand the thought that the material (unguided, directionless, purposeless) has a spiritual dimension. Gnosticism lost in the Middle Ages and will lose in our time.
So, I warming wish you all a Merry Christmas!