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Americans want to keep Christ in Christmas

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A billboard from the Long Beach Knights of Columbus Council with Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the classic manger scene with encouragement to Keep Christ in Christmas, Long Beach, New Jersey, December 20, 2005 (Credit: Jackie via Flickr)

I was in a restaurant the other day when the waiter brought my check with the cheery wish, “Happy holidays!”  Retailers and media alike speak of this as the “holiday season.”  Santa Claus and his reindeer take turns in store windows alongside Christmas trees, toys, and tinsel.  An observer from Mars could be forgiven for wondering why we call this season “Christ”mas.

Here’s some good news: 79 percent of Americans believe “Christmas should be more about Jesus.”  Only 18 percent disagree.  When asked if “Christmas activities should include a visit to a church service,” 63 percent agree.  Further, 70 percent of Americans say Christmas would be better with a Christian focus.

And 86 percent (including 80 percent of young adults) say children in public schools should be allowed to sing religious Christmas songs in school-sponsored musicals.  Even among “Nones” (those who claim no religious faith), 73 percent agree that school children should be allowed to sing religious songs in Christmas concerts.

Last week I saw and reviewed Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.  Hollywood’s renewed interest in biblical themes is interesting.  More religious movies have been made this year than in the previous 11 years combined.  Since successful movie producers make movies we want to see, the success of these films says something important about our culture.

Justin, a second-century theologian and martyr, articulated a doctrine known as the “seminal Logos theory.”  He believed that there is a “seed” implanted by God in each person, so that we retain enough of our pre-Fall nature to long for personal relationship with our Maker.  Justin therefore appealed to his non-Christian culture by showing the relevance of Jesus’ truth and love to their questions and desires.

Pascal said we have a “God-shaped emptiness” in us.  St. Augustine wrote that “our hearts are restless until they rest in him.”  Every time Hollywood makes a movie on a biblical subject, it agrees.

Every person you know was created by a God who loves them.  When we embody his love, others are drawn to the Christ they see in us.  Christianity Today‘s cover story, “Pope Francis: Why Everyone Loves the Pope,” illustrates this fact.  The pope’s popularity is based not on his doctrinal pronouncements or ecclesiastical leadership, but on his obvious compassion.  When he washes the feet of Muslims in a juvenile detention center, something in us rejoices to see such grace.

Whose feet will you wash today?