WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin Explores What It Means That "Santa Was Struck Down In Massachusetts"
Outside Fire Department Station 4 in Utica, New York, a hand-made sign stands propped against the front wall. It reads, “Happy Birthday Jesus We Love You.” Predictably, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the mayor demanding the sign be removed. The sign is a “religious endorsement,” the group asserted. The mayor replied citing legal opinion that the city is within its rights to keep the sign. The battle continues.
This is old stuff. It happens every year at Christmas. One wonders why certain people are so easily provoked. If I walked past a fire station, say, in Detroit, and the local fire station had posted a sign that read, “Happy Birthday Mohammed,” I would merely pass by, shake my head, and might think to myself, “They’re a little strange.” I would not immediately feel compelled to protest or spend good money to lodge a lawsuit to remove it.
Since I, as a non-Muslim am in the majority, even in Detroit, my instinct would be to give the author of the sign freedom to post his sentiment. I would not normally conclude that the sign was an endorsement of Islam by the city of Detroit. On the other hand, were I in Saudi Arabia, and therefore in the minority, and the local firemen erected a “Happy Birthday Mohammed” sign at the fire house, I would most likely cede to the majority some right to express a majority opinion. So I’d tolerate it. I suggest most of us think the same way.
What, then, is going on with people like this? Why do they feel so compelled to tear down and blot out what their neighbors believe? Bravo to Mayor Robert Palmieri of Utica! May his tribe increase!
But this Christmas someone has taken the rage against Christmas to another level. Principal Jennifer Ford of the Andrews Elementary School in Peabody, Massachusetts, wrote to parents last week informing them that this year, for the first time in living memory, Santa Claus would not appear at the school’s winter concert. Perhaps you’ve been to such concerts—Kindergarten through fourth grade. Children singing and playing what is loosely called “music,” performed for the delight of their parents. It is part of the magical hype that revs up kids for the coming of old Saint Nick on Christmas Eve!
But one person complained, and Principal Ford folded. But, Santa? Santa running down the aisle at the conclusion of the concert? One parent said, “I don’t think [removing Santa] is right, and I know a lot of people agree with me.” A lot of people do. I once saw for sale in a Mexican tourist shop, a plastic figure of Santa kneeling at the manger. But that indiscretion aside, Santa isn’t a religious symbol. Santa, however, has become collateral damage in the larger conflict.
Why such hostility toward Christmas? Why does even the word “Christmas” evoke wrath? Christmas is supposed to be a season of joy. It bears a message of hope and of peace. Why are some people such bitter enemies of something good that brings happiness and glad heart to so many?
For the answer one must go back to Bethlehem. To the night. The Bible tells the sweet story of Christ’s birth and then carries us into the fields around Bethlehem. The shepherds were watching over their sheep. Suddenly, the Bible says, “An angel of the Lord stood before them.” He announced Christ’s birth. And then the text says, “Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:9, 13, 14)
These angels were not fat little cherubs or beautiful, feminized beings with wings and long flowing white gowns. The key word here is “host.” The heavenly host. The word is always used in reference to an army. What the shepherds saw that night was a division of fully armed and combat-ready Special Forces troops. They carried a message of peace, but they were present in Bethlehem because the Living God had just been born as a human baby.
He came offering good will and mercy to those who would receive him. But there were enemies aplenty that night who wanted him dead. King Herod’s storm troopers, you recall, were only weeks or months away from being unleashed to rampage through the streets of Bethlehem slaughtering infants indiscriminately, in a vain attempt to kill this one holy baby. The angels were deployed to stand guard.
There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who love Christ and those who hate him. And those who hate him are willing to cut down even Santa, in the school auditorium, merely because of his association with the King of Kings.
Do not despair. If you will receive Christ he will fill your life with healing and blessing. Do not surrender hope because of the enemy. Christmas will win out. Jesus said, “The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will recompense every man according to his deeds.” (Matthew16:27) And then there will be peace on earth. Joy to the World!