Howard Feldman

Time for Christians to take Christmas back

2017-12-01 08:18

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Some years ago I walked in the ways of Jesus. It was an unusual exercise for an observant Jew and yet I found myself tracing his steps along the Via Dolorosa in the old city of Jerusalem. 

I stopped where he was meant to have stopped, rested where he was meant to have rested and then carried on walking along the path as he did towards his death. I wasn't aware until that day, that he carried the cross with him as he walked through the city's alleys and that the walk to the crucifixion was a painful and arduous one.

My reaction to the experience caught me off guard. I found myself moved by the magnitude of the event and honoured to be able to have had a glimpse into a world that was not my own. Mostly for that moment, I felt deeply connected to the millions of Christians around the world. And I felt certain that that was a key message of the faith. 

I became convinced that day that not only should every Christian try and experience what I did, but also that they should protect what has become an all too common affront on their belief system.

And when better to start than with Christmas? 

In a politically correct and overly sensitive world, an alarming trend has developed: the trend to remove Christmas from Christmas. There appears (to me) to be an apologetic approach to the festival consistent with global approach to not offend anyone. And so, it has become normal to wish people "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" and only hesitantly and tentatively mention Christmas in the greeting.  

Christmas trees seem to have been deemed acceptable in public places because, well, they aren't really symbolic of faith and we are told over and over that Santa Clause wears red because he was sponsored by Coke.

It's appalling and stupid. And it's sad.

As an observant Jew I might appear to have little locus standi when it comes to commenting on the practice of another religion. But the contrary is true. As a person who is not of the Christian faith, I am well qualified to suggest that none of us non-Christians will perish from deep insult if we are not included with "Happy Holidays!" or "Season's Greetings!"

We can cope with it. And if we can't then that is pretty much our problem.

Our children will not feel excluded. And if they do then it's most likely good for them. Because the life lesson that not everything is about them and that we need to be able to celebrate for others and be happy or merry for others is not a bad lesson at all. On the contrary, it would serve them well to understand that the world is made up of different faiths and experiences.

I have such fond memories of my parents taking us into "town" to see the Christmas lights. I recall so clearly, being young and tired, lying on the back seat of my father's Valiant while on holiday in the Cape. I recall looking up in wonder at the Christmas lights as they glided past me. Today the lights might still shine, but the announcement on the "My Cape Town stay" website refers to the "Adderley Street Festive Lights 2017". The site has affectively been scrubbed clean of any reference to Christmas.

According to a study by the Center for Studies on New Religions (released earlier this year), it was estimated that in 2016 alone, 90 000 Christians were killed for their beliefs worldwide. A third was at the hands of Islamist extremists like IS and others by state and non-state persecution. This includes places like North Korea. The same study revealed that as many as 600 million Christians were prevented from practicing their faith. Effectively, Christians continued to be the most persecuted group across the globe.

I believe that it is time for Christians to take back the celebration of their faith. I believe it's time for Christians to be proud and not be undermined by those of us who are simply too insecure to cope with it. I believe that it begins with taking back Christmas from the festive season because giving it away has done it no good at all.

Merry Christmas.

- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    jerusalem  |  christmas


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