I suppose it is okay if I talk about Christmas this early…
Because Hobby Lobby sent me an email saying all Christmas décor was 50% off. Because radio stations are already dedicating their playlists to Christmas music. Because my daughter has been practicing her Christmas program in my car for weeks.
I’ve already seen stories shared and emotions flare around this particular topic. Starbucks, for instance, doesn’t have “Merry Christmas” on their famous red cups. One Facebook post I saw said it’s because “they hate Jesus.” Another group was boycotting a mall because they changed out Christmas trees for glaciers.
Grab your ammo. Circle the wagons. The war on Christmas is in full swing.
Soon we will be inundated with “Happy Holidays” and forced to buy X-mas trees and our kids will be out of school for “winter” breaks and all of this is points to the fact that our culture despises Christians and should rally us to use our buying power to shop elsewhere this holiday Christmas season.
Except no. Not really.
The North American Church has wasted far too much energy on this issue and it is to our detriment. Somewhere along the way we have decided that our culture owes us something. We’ve somehow come to believe that the way Target makes its billions of dollars needs to cater to us and our beliefs, and everyone else just needs to get on board. We’ve made a decision that anything short of that is unacceptable, sinful, and/or proof the world hates us.
The early church, the first followers of Jesus, would have no framework for this mentality. They were a persecuted minority. They had no voting power. Politicians weren’t interested in courting their vote. They had no say in any process. They had no influence. They had no rights.
Back then stores didn’t send out coupons with “Happy Holidays” on them. Instead many marketplaces required an offering of worship to Caesar for the opportunity to buy goods. Many employers required you to declare “Caesar is Lord” in order to work for them. Failure to comply, failure to bow to the empire, meant it was likely you couldn’t engage in the economy of the community. You were pushed to the margins, forced underground, and left with the decision about what was more important: feeding your family or faithfulness to God.
Fast forward 2,000 years and Christians are stomping their feet and throwing temper tantrums because our empire is now less likely to wish us a “Merry Christmas” when we check out at the grocery store. Never mind the fact that the White House is selling the official national Christmas ornament for just $18.95. Never mind that fact that Christmas is a federally recognized holiday. Or the fact that 96% of the U.S. (including 81% of non-Christians) celebrate this day.
Never mind the fact that term X-mas originated with the church. And that holiday means holy day.
And of course, never mind the fact that our culture owes us nothing.
Somewhere along the way we came to desire and demand position and influence. We enjoyed being the majority and being in control. We liked having a say in how things worked. And we are unwilling to let these go. At least not quietly.
We have become gluttons for power and privilege.
Unfortunately these things, as fun and comfortable as they are, look nothing like the life of Jesus. Jesus gave up his privilege and his power and humbled himself, becoming a slave for the sake of others (Philippians 2). And right there in that passage it says that we are to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus and look to other people’s interest and do everything without complaining and model the outrageous love of Jesus.
Ours is a story of Savior who lays down his rights, makes room for those pushed to the outside, and dies for his enemies. Ours is a story of wanderers in search of a home, slaves in need of freedom, exiles longing for home, and a small band of faithful followers who believe losing your life is the way to find it.
We could stand to remember that around the world people are experiencing actual persecution for the sake of following Jesus. If you feel persecuted because your non-Christian neighbor says “Happy Holidays” or because your town doesn’t put up a manger scene anymore, maybe take a moment and reflect on just how much freedom and privilege you have.
What if we responded to these things with the humility and graciousness the way Jesus demonstrated? What if this is the way to keep Christ in Christmas? What if that is how we change the world?
Hallmark is not the enemy. Atheists are not the enemy. Even Starbucks, with the overpriced, delicious, generically labeled cups, is not the enemy.
If there is a war on Christmas it’s in the fact that we celebrate the coming of a humble Savior, born to a poor family in a barn by spending $600 billion on gifts while it would take just $10 billion to bring clean water to the world. If you want to boycott the eggnog latte do it not because of what is on the cup but because you have the disposable income to bring clean water to other humans. (check out charity:water for more information or to get involved)
The war on Christmas most likely occurs when we overlook peace on earth and goodwill to men to rush out on Thanksgiving Day in order to buy cheap televisions and video games. Or when we pack our December schedules so full that we have no time to enjoy relationships with the people around us, racking up debt and anxiety.
This year instead of demanding our way or taking offense to the fact that the world doesn’t feel the same way about Jesus as we do, maybe we can do better. Maybe we can respond lovingly in each circumstance. Even when we don’t get our way. Maybe we can remember that Jesus came for us while we were still a mess and far from God. Maybe we can focus on the needs of others and point them to the hope of Christmas.
Let us take the initiative to bring good news of great joy to all people.
Not through our greeting cards or the places we shop, but in the way in which we love, the way in which we order our priorities, and the way in which we lay down our lives for others.