"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.'" -- Luke 2:8-14
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- That was then, this is now. Glorifying and praising God, while acceptable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, is no longer in vogue in many areas of American culture. If those shepherds showed up this week in one of America's high schools to praise the birth of Christ, liberal activists would shower them with court-ordered injunctions to prevent His name from being heard in a government school.
Imagine the Magi walking great distances along a modern American highway to bestow their finest gifts on baby Jesus. They would surely be accompanied by a vast army of liberal protestors chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Jesus Christ has got to go."
If such a protest occurred, the media would give the demonstrators -- not the birth of our Savior -- wall-to-wall coverage. Polls would be taken and pundits -- not priests or pastors -- would be summoned from the far corners of the earth. They would follow not a star -- but a satellite in the sky -- in order to denounce the Birth, question its importance and protest the exclusion of other "gods" from the news coverage.
Sounds crazy, but it's not far from what is happening in America today.
Led by the American Civil Liberties Union and the People for the American Way, liberal activists are working overtime to erase the real meaning of Christmas from American culture. Secular elites who spend millions of dollars annually to ensure unfettered distribution of condoms to schoolchildren and the unabridged "right" of teenage girls to have abortions now deem Christmas carols too controversial for schools and urge banning public displays of nativity scenes.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has documented dozens of cases across the country of nativity and Christmas displays being vandalized and desecrated. The hostility toward religious Christmas exhibits "is the worst we've seen," says League president Bill Donohue.
In Somerville, Mass., Mayor Joe Curtatone's office issued a press release informing residents of the city's "Christmas Party." Shortly after its distribution, the mayor himself had to retract the statement and apologize "for the mistake and to anyone who was offended" by the reference to "Christmas." The city celebration, the mayor informed the people of Somerville, would now be called a "City Holiday Party."
In Denver, organizers of the Parade of Lights -- an event that has taken place for 30 years -- told the Faith Bible Church that they and their Christmas carols are not welcome because they might offend some along the parade route. Denver's mayor, John Hickenlooper stated that next year, the seasonal sign on the city offices will no longer bear the greeting "Merry Christmas." Instead, it will read "Happy Holidays."
Last year, the Denver City Council debated a ballot initiative demanding the local government "ensure public safety by increasing peacefulness ... by defusing political, religious and ethnic tension both locally and globally ... through stress-reducing techniques or programs."
They might feel less stress in Cuba, where dictator Fidel Castro has demanded that Christmas displays and symbols be removed from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The images are apparently offensive on Castro's island, where the holiday has been banned for nearly 30 years -- except when Pope John Paul II visited the island in 1997.
Some American businesses are following Castro's lead. Target, the giant department store, decided this year to ban volunteers from the Salvation Army from collecting donations outside its stores during the Christmas season. The merry bell-ringers from one of the oldest, most efficient and most respected charities in the world were causing too many problems for Target executives.
The nearly $9 million the Salvationists would have raised outside the Target stores was to be used to house the homeless, feed the hungry, comfort the sick and clothe the naked, among other needy projects. Target executives say they support such goals. Was it the fact that the Salvation Army does these things in the name of Christ that got to them?
Thankfully, not all the news is bad. Two other American corporations have stepped up to help the Salvation Army this Christmas season.
Books-A-Million, the third largest book retailer in America, has announced that they will match up to $10,000 in donations to the Salvation Army made outside each of their retail locations. With 200 stores across the country, it's a generous offer indeed.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Betsy Reithemeyer announced: "The Salvation Army red kettles and the bell-ringers are truly a holiday tradition worth keeping. We hope our customers join us in donating what they can to benefit an organization that does so much in our communities to serve families in need." Wal-Mart has promised to match donations to the Salvation Army made outside its stores up to $1 million.
Hopefully, the American people will respond by giving these corporations their business. Those who work overtime to erase Christmas from the American landscape don't need our business; they need our prayers. O come all ye faithful. (And not so faithful.) Merry Christmas!
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.