Gene Edward Veith is out this week in World Magazine with an article on holiday programming. He goes through the various programs, and at the end proclaims that Charlie Brown Christmas is still the best.
The article is definitely worth the read, as you'll probably find (as I did) some of your favorites on the list and see how he ranks them.
Here are three key statements I'd like to highlight:
"...for many viewers, watching these classics each and every year has become a staple of their Christmas observance."
"...few of the TV Christmas classics have any references to the birth of Jesus Christ. What they provide are good clues to what secularists celebrate instead."
"For many people, the true meaning of Christmas is nostalgia."
I think he's dead on. One of our favorite movies, White Christmas, fits this category perfectly (although he's a bit kinder to it, not relgating it to the nostalgia level). The whole thing was inspired by the song of the same name. The king of the classic holiday specials, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, originated as a department store promotion.
Consider commercials. Until a couple of years ago, every time the Budweiser Clydesdales came on, I'd get a little choked up, and I don't even drink beer. For years, Coca-Cola has had retro Santa on their cans, and now they've got Christmas polar bears.
Then there is music. Although I'm not a big fan of the sacred/secular distinction, it seems appropriate here. Christmas music seems to run down parallel tracks, and the secular path has a nostalgia all its own. I mentioned White Christmas already, but there are enough truly secular songs to fill many albums.
But we must be careful--even if we limit ourselves to sacred songs, we still have those that are traditional, despite the fact that they contain theological errors. One example is Angels We Have Heard on High. What were the angels doing? Were they singing? No, they were proclaiming. But we sing this, despite the error, because we've always sung it.
I hope none of this will take away from our enjoyment of family, friends, and holiday traditions during this blessed season. But it serves as a sobering warning. With the possible exception of Thanksgiving, America's "holy days" are all secular holidays; and particularly at Christmas, if we're not careful, we Christians can easily end up side-by-side with the secularists, celebrating sentimentality.