It’s officially begun. Christmas has started. How many times have you heard or read some variation on that theme over past week or so. Someone, with no authority other than the power to make “Captain Obvious” level life observations, decides to tell the world, “it’s officially Christmas”. This someone could be the TV weatherman, a celebrity, or a friend on Facebook who’s just seen a parade or play. It might be anyone. For whatever reason, this person has decided per their own standards, that Christmas has arrived. They must tell the world. Surely, the rest of us must be blind or ambivalent to the encroaching holiday presence. We need to be told. We don’t know what the criteria for Christmas’ arrival might be. Other than a photograph or post which may accompany the “Declaration of Christmas’ Arrival”, we’re left guessing.
On the other hand, now we know, so this must be it, “My friend’s attendance at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting with a group of people that didn’t include me marks the beginning of the seasons remembering the birth of Jesus.” If we were waiting for our family’s benign traditions of a Christmas tree purchase, the arrival of a bonus to purchase presents, or something to do with church; we were wrong. The decision was made for us by someone on social media. Christmas now arrives when people decide for it to appear in ways they deem appropriate to their already packed social calendars. Christmas (as it has become in the realm of digital fascism) has nothing to do with images of a marginalized teenage mother in a Judean backwater.
Our best Christmas pictures are rarely captioned with, “It’s officially time to tell the story of social deprivation, refugees, poverty, and genocidal imperial power.” To paraphrase Colonel Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men”, not only can Americans not handle the truth, we don’t want the truth. We don’t talk about the truth at Christmas parties (or at church) because it makes us uncomfortable. To bring up the truth at Christmas is to be labeled a Grinch or Scrooge; you become someone who’s stepped off the train of the cultural, feel-good secular gospel.
Truth tellers are easily forgotten ornaments. The arbiters of Christmas may decide to include you in the story but your presence comes at a price. You will be at the back and you must be silent. You wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday by telling the truth about Herod’s genocide, Jesus’ unwed mother, and the refugee baby born so far from home. After all it’s already Christmas and there’s not enough room in the inn for the truth.