Christmas and Cultural Appropriation

“Happy Christmas” is an all too common greeting a this time of year. But is it also an act of cultural appropriation? If you don’t believe in Christ’s mass, are you taking from someone else’s culture for your own benefit?


In many ways it is a sad reflection on our society that cultural appropriation is now included in the Oxford Dictionary. God gave the gift of his Son that first Christmas and the three wise men brought their gifts to the newborn king; now everyone is following suit and giving gifts. That’s classic cultural appropriation! (And of course Christmas did some co-opting or cultural appropriation of its own along the way.)

But Christmas feels different this year. Sales on the high street are down again and things are even slowing online. There is a strange mix in the air - Band Aid and Brexit, Bublé and backstops. 

Consumerism is far from dead, but in all the uncertainty it appears to have slowed. There is a palpable concern driven by austerity and Brexit. The future feels less clear and certain than usual.

Our secular, politically correct culture seems happy to play along with Christmas, as long as we keep the baby in a manger. It wants to domesticate the Christmas story, dumbing down the offence and diminishing the glory.

With the parties and busyness it is easy to forget that in the midst of the political turmoil of first century Palestine, God chose to show up as a newborn baby - vulnerable and helpless. Though this king of kings so threatened King Herod that he had all male babies under two killed.

Of course our political rulers are much more sensible today. But in case we have our doubts, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that the government will rest on the shoulders of Jesus, not our politicians. 

No matter your views on Brexit, we are clearly in a mess and locally Stormont hasn’t met for almost two years. Thankfully, the joy of the world is found in a manager, not a managed transition; and the hope of the world is found in the baby in Bethlehem, not Brexit.

In this festive season God invites all of us to imitate his vulnerability and sacrifice, to adopt his customs and practices - to culturally appropriate the Christmas story. This story is your story.

So in all the activity, remember the nativity. Its part of the greatest story ever told. 

We sing joy to the world, the Lord has come. Now the question is, will you receive your King?

Be blessed,

Peter Lynas