It's an annual tradition in the U.S. now. Every December, we hear the displeasure (and sometimes violent indignation) of Christians who feel that they're losing their holiday.
Of course, not all the observations of the disgruntled are untrue. It is in fact true that more public schools are expanding to include more holidays or not doing religiously-themed activities at all. It is true that businesses, public events, etc. are giving more and more recognition to other holidays celebrated at this time of year (or opting for a broad, secular "holidays" reference). Explicit references to Jesus on the television airwaves are fewer these days.
Such observations are not wholly untrue; our culture is diversifying. This reality is the cause consternation among some Christians who, as best I can tell, wish they didn't have to share space with others who don't believe and celebrate as they do. Apparently, a homogeneous society where everyone unquestioningly celebrates Christmas would be better.
In the midst of this environment where, according to Donald Trump, you can't even say "Merry Christmas" without fear, Christmas and Jesus burst onto the scene on prime time television this year, and I wonder how many people noticed.
Pentatonix is the 5-member a cappella group from Texas with super-human sounds that have captivated their audiences. They burst onto the music scene in 2011 when they won the third season of NBC's "The Sing-Off." Since then, they've released five full studio albums, won 2 Grammy's, and have been nominated for dozens of other awards.
Three of their five albums are Christmas albums. Among those three Christmas albums, 11 of the songs on them are explicitly Christian and/or directly reference Christ and his birth.
On December 14th, on NBC (one of TV's most popular networks) at 8:00 p.m. (one of the most popular TV viewing hours), Pentatonix had a full-hour Christmas special that included big name special guests like Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. In this prime time slot, when some would have you believe you can't say the name of Jesus, in front of 7.5 million viewers, they belted out lyrics such as:
God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day
In Bethlehem, in Israel this blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger upon this blessed morn
That which His Mother Mary did nothing take in scorn
Come and behold him
Born the king of angels
Oh come let us adore him...Christ the Lord
How did this happen? Why didn't the anti-Christmas gods strike them down?
Granted, I'm possibly over-exaggerating the uniqueness of these mentions of Christ. After all, Lauren Daigle recently performed what is essentially a worship song on Good Morning America. But explicit references to Christ in prime time, especially in reverent fashion, are still uncommon enough to merit notice.
Granted, part of the reason these artists are getting a special place is because of their special talent. When you're captivating audiences and can bring in ratings, producers largely don't care what you're saying.
But I don't think their talent accounts for all of it. The members of Pentatonix, both collectively and as individuals, demonstrate a grace and humility that stands in stark contrast to the combative and pretentious posture of Christians who think there's an organized attack on their holiday.
Pentatonix is a religiously-diverse group that includes one Jewish member (Avi, the bass). Only one member openly talks about being a Christian (Kevin, the beatboxer). Based on things I've read from and about the group, it's safe to assume that at least one other member considers him/herself non-religious. These members don't protest, pout, or disengage at the thought of singing about beliefs and celebrations that are not their own. Quite to the contrary, they put in countless hours of practice and travel time away from home to be able to do so. In all their interviews, they are incredibly humble and seem to genuinely consider it a privilege and blessing that people are listening to their music. During one interview, the female member, Kirstin, began to cry as she talked about how much she owes to her mother for always supporting her and believing in her. They're talented people, but they're also gracious and humble people who have earned their following.
As it turns out, a group that is largely non-committal religiously is given more generous time and space to speak the name of Christ than other Christian groups who demand that their holiday be given exclusive recognition.
Let this be a lesson to us. Perhaps there is truth to the old teaching that you have to earn the right to be heard. A gracious and humble approach to our neighbors, one that values others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3), is how fretting Christians may find more opportunities to share the Savior that we so anxiously want recognized at this time of year.
People actually connect with you and open up to you when you act like Christ. Imagine that.