The BLOG: Faith and Law

Our biggest national holiday suggests something about our national identity

It has become an annual tradition for Christians to observe during Advent and Christmastide that “the Holidays” have become secularized. And our secular neighbors are equally eager to amuse themselves each year by imagining that Christians are up in arms about this trend. (I still haven’t met an actual Christian who objected to the infamous Starbucks cup, only people mocking the unnamed Christians who were supposed to have been objecting.)

For sure, the incarnation of the Son of God and savior of the world does not mean much for most Americans anymore. Our biggest national holiday is mostly a time to stress about hosting family, to get stuck in traffic at the mall, to actually host family, to eat well, and to watch a little college football.

So, we might tend to lose sight of a really astonishing fact: We have a national holiday to celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God and savior of the world! A man walked this earth 2,000 years ago whom angels are supposed to have announced was born of a virgin, who claimed to fulfill all the prophecies of the most influential monotheistic faith of the ancient world, and who was later crucified by the Romans three days before appearing in a resurrected body to his disciples, who were willing to die as evidence of their conviction that what they claimed to have seen was real.

In addition to all that, this man claimed to be God. To followers of the law of Moses, he referred to himself using the same name (I am) that the Creator of the universe is reported to have used when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush. As C.S. Lewis famously observed, such a man leaves us with three options. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or he is Lord.

The reason to have a national holiday celebrating the birth of such a man is that he is in fact who he claimed to be. And by law, Christmas is a national holiday.

We are a nation of laws in at least two senses. In theory, we live under the rule of law and not of men. In practice, we are a nation whose identity is constituted in large part by our laws. That we have a law marking Dec. 25 as an annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth says something important about our national identity.

Merry Christmas.

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod is a member of the Maine and Massachusetts (inactive) bars and an Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is the author of “Property and Practical Reason” (Cambridge University Press) and dozens of articles in journals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, many of which can be accessed at his website.