Following Masses last weekend at Prince of Peace Church in Bellevue, the Knights of Columbus distributed lawn signs that read “Keep Christ in Christmas.” The yard signs are just one of numerous projects the international Knights of Columbus sponsors as part of their family programs. For example, they also sponsor “Keep Christ in Christmas” poster contests for children. This year’s winners can be seen at bit.ly/KC_Contest.
The challenge of keeping Christ in Christmas has long been on the minds of many church leaders, especially in consumer-oriented societies and in cultures where religious belief is waning.
Several years ago, the Pew Research Center released a survey reporting that fewer Americans this decade believe in the biblical account of the Nativity. The survey also revealed that fewer people mark Christmas as a religious holiday.
These are troubling revelations for the religious community. While this trend away from “keeping Christ in Christmas” has been going on for quite some time, it can also be viewed as an outreach opportunity.
What exactly did the Pew Research Center study show? Fifty-five percent of 1,503 U.S. adults who responded to a telephone survey said they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. This was down from 59% in a similar survey in 2013.
Regarding the biblical Christmas story, a declining number of Americans believe the Gospel accounts reflect historical events.
“One of the most striking changes in recent years involves the share of Americans who say they believe the birth of Jesus occurred as depicted in the Bible,” reported Pew.
Four questions related to the biblical Christmas story were posed. When asked if Jesus was born to a virgin, 66% said they agreed. Other questions were: Baby Jesus was laid in a manger (75% said yes); wise men guided by a star brought Jesus gifts (68% said yes); an angel announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds (67% said yes).
“Overall, 57% of Americans now believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story, down from 65% in 2014,” reported Pew. The numbers are even lower when viewed by age, with Millennials (those born between early 1980s and mid-1990s) listed at 44% in agreement with all four questions.
Like the star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi to Jerusalem in search of the newborn king, we are challenged to be beacons of light for others. All around us, people struggle for direction, friendship, hope, meaning, love. Perhaps these needs are reflected in the responses given in the Pew study. When hopelessness, cynicism and doubt creep into one’s life, faith in God can be tested or rejected.
Let’s help turn around the creeping indifference toward the true meaning of Christmas by recognizing the stranger’s knock. Whether it is inviting a friend or family member to Christmas Mass, welcoming new neighbors to the neighborhood with a plate of cookies, or offering a smile and hello to the overworked department store associate, it’s an opportunity to meet Jesus — and introduce Jesus to others.
Christmas is a time to shine the light of hope that comes from a relationship with Jesus. This year, make your Christian presence become someone else’s Christmas present.
Keeping Christ in Christmas starts with introducing him to the world around us.
— Sam Lucero