Dear Friends,

I was in my morning coffee shop this week when out of the blue my neighbour asked me about Donald Trump. It turns out he was a chatty, semi-retired journalist. He was about to give a presentation on Trump and he wanted to know what I thought about his election. He probably noticed the small Bible on my table but I had never talked to him before and he would not have known I am a pastor. However, I do not want to get drawn into political discussions in my regular Starbucks. More about my reasons for this some other time.

What did I say to my neighbour? I said that since we cannot go back in time and change things, we should do the best we can in the present circumstances. I told him that this is my view with every election, not just Trump’s. We should work and pray that he rules well and the country prospers. I asked the rhetorical question, “Why should we hope he does a terrible job and wrecks everything?” He responded that many people are hoping he fails spectacularly. I acknowledged that that was true, but I said the election is over; him (Trump) failing in a big time way will only hurt ordinary people in the US and around the world, so let’s work well where we are and hope and pray he rules reasonably well.

How does this have anything to do with secular Christmas? A lot, I think. Orthodox Christians like us can easily fall into the trap of lamenting and “looking down our nose” at secular people and how they understand and celebrate Christmas. We talk as if they do not understand the true meaning of Christmas. We demand they put Christ back at the centre of Christmas. We mock their shallowness and commercialism, often while taking a break from Christmas shopping at Tim Horton’s!

But, we cannot go back in time and change things. There is now one Christmas holiday, with (as ideal types) two different understandings of the holiday. That is the way the world is. We should accept this and work within the way Canada is to bring out the best of secular Christmas, all the while becoming clearer ourselves on Christmas as a time to remember the birth of Jesus, God’s Son and humanity’s Saviour.

Mere scolding only comes across as being grumpy and superior. If we want to let our neighbours know how the biblical story of Christmas both fulfills and subverts secular Christmas, then we need to enjoy the many parts of secular Christmas we can agree with. For secular Christmas is a call to connect with family and friends, to be generous and give gifts, to remember the poor, to “hope for a miracle”, to embrace optimism. Seeing secular Christmas in this way, we can see how it is unconsciously and incompletely based on biblical Christmas. So, accept and love Canada (and Ottawa) as it is. Let us seek the good of our nation as we share the biblical Gospel with its message of the birth of the Saviour.

George +