Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The "Japanization" Of Christmas in America

Christians make up approximately 0.005% of Japans population (about 750,000 Christians in a country of 126 million), so I full well understand that the Japanese will have their own interesting twist on the Christian holiday of Christmas, or Kurisumasu. This is essentially a new holiday in Japan, picked up via radio and TV in the early '60's, and without a body of Christianity in Japan this holiday has gone off into its own direction.

Kurisumasu looks like Christmas in western countries at first glance, Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, buildings decorated with multicolored lights, the crowds shopping for gifts for their loved ones... but it's just a superficial resemblance. Kurisumasu is not a national holiday in Japan so schools and businesses remain open on December 25th, and the reason for the season is more cake and chicken rather than Christ and salvation.

In Japan Christmas is seen as a romantic holiday like Valentines day. Couples exchange gifts, stroll through the city and admire the decorations, then have a romantic dinner of fried chicken. Seriously. A very successful advertising campaign by KFC in the 1970's has made the idea of an extra crispy romantic dinner the center of the Japanese Christmas experience and couples make reservations up to a month in advance to dine at the local KFC on Christmas eve. Along with chicken another favorite Japanese Christmas tradition is Christmas cake, a sponge cake decorated with strawberries, Christmas trees and Santa-san. In Japan the true meaning of Christmas is Christmas itself, and since Japan developed their version of the holiday from observing the rest of the world this makes sense.

However it does not make sense that in a Christian country Christmas is being seen the nearly the same way as the Japanese see it. Television commercials of course are going to commercialize the holiday, that's what commercials are engineered to do, and there's nothing going to change that unless a huge spending campaign is undertaken to purchase a majority of advertising time on all channels. That's not going to happen. My big concern is that it looks to me like the celebration of Christmas here in a Christian country is being transformed into the Japanese version of Christmas: a romantic holiday like Valentines day where lovers come together over a gaudily decorated sponge cake, and if you're already married it becomes a day of family gatherings over a bucket of fried chicken.

What I've been seeing is a trend of non-stop Christmas movies and specials on Lifetime, Hallmark and ABC Family channels that are becoming very popular. Mrs. WideAwakeChristian said she used to like to watch these movies but no longer does. And me, I find a higher spiritual message in a round of Candy Crush Saga than the vast majority of these offerings. These movies with their heartwarming family friendly message does nearly as much harm to the Christianity of Christmas as the militant evangelical atheist shouting oaths on the street corner. Maybe much more damage because those paragons of anger are more sad than convincing, while these lifetime movies can get their secular message in "under the radar" of discernment through the guise of warmth.

Recently I screened Snowglobe on the Lifetime channel. Snowglobe is a cute fantasy, a young woman with a really annoying family ends up with a magic snow globe and she can travel into the snow globe where it's always Christmas. Of course in the end the family gets together and settles their differences and the young woman ends up with an awesome boyfriend. What really got to me was at one part of Snowglobe the entire family was gathered (uninvited) in the young woman's apartment and she's explaining to her clueless brother-in-law how there was no room at the inn for Mary and Joseph. That lasted less than 30 screen seconds and she stopped, shifted gears and started to explain that the true meaning of Christmas is family. 

Looking at the movies and specials provided by Lifetime shows a pattern and mostly the titles tell the entire story:
All She Wants for Christmas
A Dad for Christmas
A Very Married Christmas
A Christmas Wedding
The 12 Men of Christmas
Holly's Holiday
His and Her Christmas
Home for the Holidays
Home by Christmas
A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride
Kristin's Christmas Past
Under the Mistletoe
Holiday High School Reunion

This is just a quick look at a part of the holiday offerings of one network, the messages they're delivering is clear: Christmas is about resolving family conflict and finding new love, or (more rarely) re-kindling old love. Nothing about Jesus, salvation, redemption, and God's gift of love to us sinners. You can find out more about the Grinch than about Jesus during the season we use to celebrate the birth of God's only begotten son. 

I'll admit, I do enjoy the secular side of the Christmas celebration, and yes I do watch Christmas movies (my favorites being the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and Donovan's Reef)  but that's just a part of the my holiday season, the promise fulfilled through the birth of Jesus and the incredible sacrifice for my salvation that followed will always be the center of the holidays for me. And what's so wrong about reinforcing that? Other than shelling out $99 on a Roku to be able to access TV Channels with a clear, strong Christian message, TV is a vast wasteland when it comes to the true "true meaning of Christmas".

Please, please, please correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that the last time the Biblical concept of Christmas was last articulated in prime time TV was over 48 years ago:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14)
"...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

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