If the profoundly Christian seventeenth-century founders of our country had a single favorite Biblical passage, it might be the one in which the Lord (speaking through His minor prophet Amos) severely condemned the empty vanity of holidays. "I hate," said the Lord, "I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies." The Lord of Hosts specifically enjoined against the attempt to placate him by sacrificing animals (a matter of topical concern in Amos' time). "Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts." Nor did He rest with these easy-to-follow injunctions, but He went on to condemn all musical tributes as well. Not for him any chants, glees or carols: "Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols." Our Puritan forefathers interpreted these lines correctly and enthusiastically; they recognized that the Lord opposed not only ritual sacrifice and music but all formal observance and rote piety. The Ancient of Days made it abundantly clear that what moved him was not empty ceremony but genuine morality. HIs solution: "let justice run down as the waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." Taking these uncompromising sentences as their guide, our founders dug in their heels against the ostentatious celebration of all holidays, especially Christmas. Instead, they did as they were enjoined: they looked into their hearts.
Would they not have been reduced to angry and impotent sobs by the grotesque consumerism -- the burnt offerings and squeaking timbrels -- that once again this Christmas season displace justice and righteousness? Could there be anything more loathsome either to Amos or to our devout ancestors than "Silent Night" amidst shopping-mall tinsel and gimcrackery? Or than the attempt to gin up conflict or to gain a partisan political advantage by inventing a mythical "war on Christmas"?
Further observations on the "holiday season" can be found here.