Last week's Pew Forum report on Christmas, Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now, (PDF attached) is no longer a shocker but sad nonetheless. Commercial interests and a lackluster church crowd have usurped Christmas allowed it to become more of secular holiday than one of religious significance.
According the report, "Nine-in-ten Americans say they celebrate Christmas, and three-quarters say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. But only about half see Christmas mostly as a religious holiday, while one-third view it as more of a cultural holiday. Virtually all Christians (96%) celebrate Christmas, and two-thirds see it as a religious holiday. In addition, fully eight-in-ten non-Christians in America also celebrate Christmas, but most view it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious occasion."
Christmas and the Holidays: What do you most look forward to?
69% - Time with family and friends
11% - Religious reflection/Church
7% - People are happy, joyful
Christmas and the Holidays: What do you like the least?
33% - Commercialism/Materialism
22% - Money/Too expensive
10% - Shopping/Crowds/Crowded Stores
Many research studies indicate Christian religious affiliation and participation in Christmas is dropping rapidly in the U.S. Worldwide, Christmas observance is rapidly being adopted and growing, even in non-Christian cultures. The Advent Reflections published on this blog during Advent show many religious figures decry the commercialism that has overtaken this season. So far I've never heard a single sermon in any church where members were admonished and corrected regarding this usurpation of Christmas. Of course, many of their members are heavily involved in commerce that benefits from Christmas, so it would be akin to shooting oneself in the foot to openly try to reset expectations of what Christmas is about.
In the early church, believers stood out from the existing culture of the day, often paying with their lives for opposing the culture. Tonight marks the end of Advent and celebrations of the Lord's birth commence at midnight.
My hope is that Christians will rerecognize that Advent and Christmas are rooted in fact, and a sincere belief that mankind's redemption sprang from events of this night that happened over 2,000 years ago. I long for Emmanuel's return in God's time.