The virus is ramping up and businesses are shutting down. People are arguing. Complaining. Fear and dread are in the air.

Welcome to Christmas 2020. In light of our current problems, how can anybody feel hopeful this year? 

C.S. Lewis once asked a similar question. During WWII, London was bombed regularly. Thousands died or were injured. Resources were limited. Suffering was multiplied. Fear was rampant. And hope was almost gone.

As Lewis witnessed these things, he began to imagine how Satan might use hard times to his advantage. This inspired Lewis to write the Screwtape Letters. The book is a series of imaginary letters between two demons named Screwtape and Wormwood. (Great names for demons, aren’t they?)

In the letters, Screwtape instructs Wormwood on how to use the crisis to lead men away from God.

This got me to thinking, how might Screwtape and Wormwood use Christmas 2020?

Here’s what I know for certain: Satan and his forces would love to rob this Christmas of all the meaning and joy they possibly can.

So I’ve written a “new” letter from Screwtape about Christmas 2020, to explore how Satan might use this crisis to try to lead me, and possibly you, away from trusting God and into the trap of despair. Perhaps it will remind us of the hope, joy and peace we can gain by centering Christmas 2020 on Christ.

Here’s the “new” letter from Screwtape about Christmas 2020:

My dear Wormwood,
Congratulations for all the damage you’ve caused in 2020!

So far, you’ve used the pandemic quite admirably:
Some are entangled in your sticky webs of bickering and complaining. 
Others have fallen into your crafty pits of irrational fear and can’t get out.
Many are wringing their hands, stuck in your ingenious traps of stress and worry.

Brilliant work!

Now you must set the most effective trap of all: DESPAIR.

If we can rob people of hope, 2020 will be our best year to date! 

This is why I’m writing you. I’m fearful of the upcoming holiday called Christmas.

If people were to stop and realize what Christmas truly means, they might start to hope again. It might renew their faith. And even worse, it could cause them to draw closer to God.

We can’t let that happen!

So, here’s your task: fight against these awful Christmas traditions with all your might:

1. Saying “Merry Christmas.” The more we can take Christ out of Christmas, the less power it will have. Try to get people to leave the Enemy out of His own birthday celebration. Isn’t that clever? Here’s a simple trick: guide people into saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

But now that I think of it, the word “holiday” is actually derived from “holy day,” so perhaps you should encourage people just to say “H.H.” instead. That can stand for whatever you please: Happy Holidays, or Heil Hitler, or Hidey-Ho. It can mean anything, but hopefully, it will mean nothing at all. Futile words and celebrations cannot instill hope in anyone. Isn’t that awesome? 

2. Nativity Scenes. Suggest that manger scenes of Baby Jesus, glittery-winged angels and fluffy sheep are offensive. Call them downright insensitive. Or dub them “old fashioned” (young people always fall for that trick). Here’s why nativity scenes are dangerous: they indicate that people truly believe the Savior was born. The crèche points to Christ. It invites people to believe in One greater than themselves. Which we simply can’t abide.

If making these biblical scenes controversial doesn’t work, then make them seem juvenile or funny or even better, make them cutebut utterly meaningless. Here’s an example:

Whisper this merry jingle into the minds of men: “the stable is merely a fable.” And by all means, do whatever you can this Christmas to hide the Gospel (known to us below as the “Horrible News”) under the sticky goo of circumstances. Distract people from the “reason for the season.” Do this, Wormwood, and it will rob people of hope. Then despair can creep in!

3. Christmas Eve Services. Make sure there’s a killer line-up on Netflix December 24th, so people will not attend Christmas services or even watch them online. Those noisy church bells must be silenced too, lest they ring out a message of hope. Candlelight vigils must not take place. What if they remind people of the Light? We must promote utter darkness—especially while everyone is suffering a pandemic low.

Snuff out all the worship you can and thus, its resulting joy. This is a proven tactic, used by demons world-wide. Hollow out the holiday, like you would a jack-o-lantern. Scrape out all the seeds of goodwill that you can. Cut through the praise. Light a blazing candle of fear. Sprinkle loneliness into its shadows. And here’s a devilish tip for Christmas Eve: entice people to sit in the dark and scroll mindlessly—or better, miserably—on their screens, all alone. Mu-wha-haha-ha!

4. Religious Symbols & Readings. Replace the Enemy with Santa Claus. Angels with flying reindeer. And stars with Disney ornaments. Lead people to set up snow villages in place of nativity scenes or advent candles. Lure them into talking about the “elf on the shelf” more than the Gift of Life. And above all, replace Scripture readings with Frosty the Snowman or something just as benign.

Here’s why: Christian symbols and readings remind people of the Enemy’s love and power. They represent eternal truths. Hope. Light. And worse, most point the way to eternal life. Don’t you see the danger? The more secular you can make Christmas, the better. Emptiness and a loss of purpose will result, which will bring us great satisfaction.

5. Caroling. No more annoying rounds of “Glo—o-o-o-o-o-ria’s or Rum-pum-pum-pum’s. PLEASE. Coax as many as you can into putting their hymnals away! No more caroling in church. No more irritating neighbors by singing songs about Christ on snowy evenings. And silence those guitars, violins and pianosthe music they make moves the human soul more deeply than singing alone!

Wormwood, the human brain is stimulated by music more than any other stimuli. Truth put to music then, is especially damaging to our cause. Live singing and playing involves hearts and minds in the message. This CAN’T happen. If you must, get people to listen to foolish—but safe—holiday songs such as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and dogs barking “Jingle Bells.” The more Christmas music you eliminate, the more effective you will be.   

Christmas 2020 is one of the best opportunities you’ve had in ages, Wormwood. Don’t screw it up!

Use the pandemic, political unrest, the economy—whatever you can find—to wreak havoc. Work your demonic skills to foster despair. Rob people of hope. Snuff out the light. Stop the music. Steal the meaning of Christmas from as many hearts as possible.

Affectionately yours,
Screwtape

I admit that C.S. Lewis’s words are far more profound than mine, but here’s the truth: the battle of 2020 isn’t merely physical or emotional—it’s much greater than that. It’s part of an ongoing cosmic battle (see Eph. 6:12). Satan and his forces fight on many fronts. This year, on the front called “earth,” the fighting is especially severe.

So what should you do this Christmas?

Stand up and fight. Don’t let the hope and joy of Christmas be stolen from you this year.

Here’s how you can stand strong: read Scripture, daily. Worship like never before. Light the lights. Sing meaningful songs. Pray prayers of thanksgiving. Express your faith. Share your joy with others.  

Fill your heart with joy and hope by centering Christmas on the Savior.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6)

Merry Christmas!