As Christians become a smaller group, secular society appropriates aspects of Christmas to suit its needs

A joiner at Salisbury Cathedral decorates the 34ft Norway Spruce Christmas tree earlier this month.  Peter Lynas, writing about the festive season, says: "People sing carols, go along to school nativities and perhaps even go to church without believing in any of it" Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
A joiner at Salisbury Cathedral decorates the 34ft Norway Spruce Christmas tree earlier this month. Peter Lynas, writing about the festive season, says: "People sing carols, go along to school nativities and perhaps even go to church without believing in any of it" Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Is Christmas the greatest act of cultural appropriation?

From wearing a sombrero to putting your hair in a cornrow, everyone from Beyonce to Disney seems to have been accused of cultural appropriation.

Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

Even the Oxford Dictionary has now included the phrase.

It refers to the inappropriate adoption of customs or practices of one group by other, usually more dominant members of society.

But isn’t that exactly what is now happening at Christmas?

As Christians become a smaller group, wider society culturally appropriates aspects of Christmas to suit their needs.

The three wise men gave the first presents and now everyone is doing it.

The church declared it a feast day and now everyone has a big turkey dinner.

People sing carols, go along to school nativities and perhaps even go to church without believing in any of it.

Our secular, politically correct culture can cope with the baby in the manger.

However, the claim to be king of kings and lord of all is much more challenging, then and now.

There is a desire to domesticate the Christmas story, dumb down the offence and diminish the glory.

The Father put all of his cards on the table, so the hope of the world could be born in a stable.

In the midst of the political turmoil of first century Palestine, God chose to show up as a newborn baby — vulnerable and helpless.

But this wasn’t just any baby. 700 years before his birth, Isaiah prophesied, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

King Herod demanded that all male babies under two be killed because he felt so threatened by the birth of this baby.

Thankfully we don’t have panicked political rulers today!

But the prophet doesn’t mean that the government would oppress this baby, but rather that the government would rest on the shoulders of Jesus.

No matter your views on Brexit, we are clearly in a mess and Stormont hasn’t met for almost two years.

There is a strange mix in the air — Band Aid and Brexit, Bublé and backstops.

Sales on the high street are down again and things are even slowing online.

Nietzsche declared prematurely that God was dead — more like economic and political certainty is dead.

Thankfully the government rests on His shoulders, not those of our politicians.

Thankfully the message of joy and hope is still found in the babe in the manager, the divine in a skin.

In this festive season God invites all of us to imitate his vulnerability and sacrifice, to adopt his customs and practices — to culturally appropriate the Christmas story.

This story is your story.

So in all the activity, remember the nativity.

It is part of the greatest story ever told.

We sing joy to the world, the Lord has come.

Now the question is, will you receive your King?

• Peter Lynas is NI Director of the Evangelical Alliance