Column for 27 December, 2009

The War on the War on Christmas

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

–John 13:14-16

If you’re like me, you get a lot of forwarded emails from well-meaning friends and relatives.  You know the kind I’m talking about: animated .gif files of puppies, kittens and/or angels, hoary old jokes straight out of Reader’s Digest, recycled political commentary from fifty years ago, and exhortations to forward it all on to “all your friends.”  No offense, but I usually delete this stuff sight unseen.  Maybe you do likewise.  Recently, though, an old friend sent me an email that matched by thoughts about the annual ritual of outrage and counter-outrage over the Christmas season.  The conceit is that is intended to be read as a message from Jesus, and parts of it bear repeating here:

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.  How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.  Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 – 8…Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time…Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them…3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up… It will be nice hearing from you again… Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families…Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

You get the idea.  You could make the same point over the perpetual complaint that Christmas is “becoming too commercial.”  Becoming?  Christmas in America has always been a secular holiday consecrated to the god of commerce, at least since the post World War Two era of the mass consumer consumption economy.  Just as the institutional church has forfeited its moral authority and degenerated into just another political special interest group, so too has Christmas been robbed of its central meaning in the mad rush to brainwash us into spending money we don’t have on crap we don’t need.  And Christians don’t merely tolerate this; we celebrate it.  We are a part of it.  Oh, sure, generally we will begrudgingly work an appearance in church into our holiday plans, if convenient.  We may even read the Christmas Story to our children, likely the only time of the year they will see most of us reading the Bible.  Anything to help compartmentalize our faith, keep it safely walled-off from the rest of our lives.  Even within the faith, we compartmentalize.  Any number of prominent Christians can and do publicly quote Scripture in support of opposing abortion or same-sex marriage; far far fewer are willing to even say, much less do, anything to support adopting children of unplanned pregnancies or strengthening heterosexual marriage.  Many more Christians will loudly bemoan their tax dollars going to “welfare” than will actually follow Christ’s commandment to serve and support the poor.  Indeed, if the institutional church were doing its’ job, there would be no need for government welfare.  So, by all means, let us remember the reason for the season, but let us remember it, and live as public examples of it, the rest of the year as well.

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

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