Rick Warren on Dangers to Christmas
Rick Warren is arguably the best-known living evangelical lminister. His “Purpose-Driven” books have been enormous best-sellers, and his sermons and other texts are read and re-distributed worldwide. He is sounding the alarm about dangers to Christmas. Unlike most evangelicals who warn of secularism, Warren worries about threats from inside: “Rick Warren: Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman Are Dangers to Christmas.”
Warren said, “We have so many Christian traditions. They just keep adding up: Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and Elf on the Shelf. We have new tradition after new tradition, but no one is talking about the real reason for the season.”
Warren has a point, but where do you draw the line? All these gimmicks were used to broaden the appeal of Christianity. Christmas trees also have nothing to do with Jesus – they were adopted from a Celtic tradition. Does Warren want to condemn and prohibit Christmas trees? The idea of buying Christmas presents was an even later gimmick, and has basically become crassly commercial.
In fact, there is almost nothing about Christmas which really derives from Jesus. While Constantine and his advisors claimed that Jesus was born on Christmas, that is almost certainly false (A Brief History of Christmas). The holiday of Christmas was a gimmick created by Constantine to appeal to pagans who celebrated the winter solstice, especially Saturnalia. That is "the real reason for the season," though it's probably not what Warren had in mind.
If you want to commemorate Jesus, why not preach and practice his central teachings? The gospels repeatedly say that his central message was to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Christians – including Warren and his church - nearly always downplay or ignore this message. Why not make it the core of Christmas?