The last week of Advent is really when Christmas gears up for me. I’m at home, the house is decorated, there is a series of goodies streaming out of the kitchen, and I spend the evenings watching the same Christmas movies every year. The fourth week of Advent feels pretty much the same every year, and that’s a good thing. It’s comfort, it’s tradition, it’s Christmas.
The Christmas movies, and the plethora of commercial breaks, reminds me that Christmas has become a primarily secular holiday. Secular Christmastime is the day after Thanksgiving to December 25. And all the TV specials, movies, and advertisements feed into the reasons for that season: family and caring for others. These aren’t bad virtues by any means. Secular Christmas promotes goodwill and charity and peace on earth. But it leaves out the Christ and Mass part of Christmas. Where is faith in secular Christmas?
Well, after my movie watching this week, I think faith is still there. Jesus isn’t going to be mentioned by name, and church is rarely going to be shown. Those topics are still too controversial for mainstream audiences. But Christmas special after Christmas special calls on its characters to believe. Believe in Santa, believe in the spirit of Christmas, believe in a purely generic, unspecified sense for no reason except that it’s Christmas. Even for those that ignore the religious origins of the holiday, there is an innate sense that the season is one of belief. Feelings of goodwill and charity do not have to be scrutinized under logic and empirical testing. People give in to desires of peace and hope and faith. That’s the beauty in the spirit of Christmas.
Beauty and magic always win out in Christmas movies. Santa is always proved to be real, even if he defies logic. Miracles always save the day, and the characters accept the miracles, because it’s Christmas. So even when I get a bit down about how secularized the message of Christmas has become—to the point that Christ isn’t mentioned by name at all—I am comforted by the fact that secular Christmas just can’t let go of the message of Christmas: Believe.