ARLINGTON, VA. — ARLINGTON, Va. - I'm not sure it's worth keeping Christmas anymore.
Oh, it is fine for those apparently dwindling numbers of us who still believe in the "original cast" of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men and the animals. They, as any post-Thanksgiving (not to mention postmodern) shopper knows, have been replaced by the road show of reindeer, winter scenes, elves and the God substitute, Santa Claus, who serves as a front for merchants seeking to play on the guilt some parents bear for ignoring their kids the rest of the year.
You can still see the original cast portrayed at Radio City Music Hall and in parts of Middle America and the South. Some stores continue to sell Nativity scenes, which are mostly made in China, a nation that officially does not keep Christmas either. Those Nativities are often kept out of sight - like "dirty" magazines used to be - so that hurried and harried shoppers who don't keep the real Christmas might not be offended in their pursuit of "holiday" gifts.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are performing their annual ritual of keeping the public square (including the public school) clean of any mention of Jesus Christ, unless that mention is intended as a curse word. In such a case, the ACLU will leap to the defense.
Why participate any longer in this charade where the focal point of worship has shifted from a babe in a manger to a babe in the Victoria's Secret window? From gold, frankincense and myrrh to Bailey Banks & Biddle? No room in the inn has been replaced by no room in the mall parking lot. If God would get a lawyer out of hell, He might be justified in suing for copyright infringement. His great story has been hijacked and transformed into its opposite.
People who celebrate the authentic Christmas might want to reconsider whether they wish to engage in the other thing that captures so much attention and costs so much money. Would that "real spirit of Christmas," which so many speak about, be better celebrated with a selfless gift or two to someone who can't pay you back? Instead of buying electronic games, computer gadgets and other gizmos, would a Christmas to remember consist of letters written by family members to each other? How about taking several days away from the chaos that Christmas has become and spending them in a rented cabin in the woods, away from TV, or at home where stories of Christmases past are shared with a new generation?
It's instructive how just one season away from lusting after material things can break the habit. It's something like liberation from an addiction or lifestyle choice. Being away from it can cause one to realize the behavior is neither missed nor needed for fulfillment and enjoyment. Absenting oneself from this faux Christmas might bring a conversion to its real meaning and free a family from its dependency on material things.
There are many charities and churches that have contacts with the homeless and poor, and especially the elderly and lonely. Did you ever sing songs to older people at a nursing home and see the expressions on their faces, not to mention feeling a warmth in your own heart? Ever give a gift to someone you know can't afford to reciprocate and suddenly realize that you have already received a greater gift that can never become obsolete, worn out or devalued?
The richer we become, the more difficult it is to buy something someone actually needs. Retailers say that the purchase of luxury items will increase sharply this month. Not everyone can afford diamonds and cars as gifts, but the poor and needy we will always have with us.
I love the original Christmas. I have come to detest the masquerade that does not even pretend to be what it was when I was growing up. That other Christmas I intend to keep. This monstrosity I will try with increasing difficulty to ignore.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.