Is Christmas required?

But if we all stopped celebrating Christmas the economy would collapse, a store manager told me, and that would cause massive hardship for many families. So despite the crass commercialism of Christmas, and despite the growing pile of plastic junk in the Pacific Ocean, and despite children being bored with most of their Christmas gifts only hours after receiving them, it seems we’re stuck with Christmas, like it or not.

But is it required? And while staring out the window wondering what my answer to that question would be, the story of Nebuchadnezzar and his golden statue in the book of Daniel came to mind. According to my Bible translation the king’s statue was a real attention grabber at 90 feet high and 9 feet wide, the height of an eight story building.

When it was completed Nebuchadnezzar summoned every official in the kingdom to the dedication, at which a “herald loudly proclaimed” in Daniel 3:4, that “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither (etc.) and all kinds of music, you must all fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.”

Music marked the moment when everybody fell into line and lay prostrate before the statue, which is enlightening, because music does the same to us in November every year. Stores all over the country start playing Christmas carols and Frosty the Snowman over their music systems, and people of every language all over the nation automatically fall into line with the Christmas ritual.

And even though we know the music is designed by stores and corporations to get us all laying prostrate before the Christmas idol in order to make gobs of money for themselves, the music dulls resistance. It worked for Nebuchadnezzar, and it works just as well today.

But it didn’t work on everyone in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Three men did not fall down and worship the king’s golden statue, because in their minds it was just a god of human making (verse 18), like Christmas is today. The king turned a bright shade of purple in his rage (verse 13) and ordered the men to be thrown into a blazing furnace that was so hot it killed the men who threw them in, just like some families really turn the heat up on those who decide they’ve had enough of Christmas and head off to Cuba instead.

But maybe that’s what’s happening to more people, that as Christmas reaches beyond the realm of sanity it no longer becomes a requirement that must be obeyed.

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