As far as I am concerned it is not the Christmas season yet. That starts this Sunday with the beginning of Advent. Right now I am more focused on making sure that we smoke enough turkey for me to devour several smoked turkey sandwiches while I watch the Iron Bowl this Saturday (yep I have great priorities). Still there has been a thought that has been bouncing around my head for a few years that comes up around this time period each year. It happens when I begin to see articles and hear people comment on the “War on Christmas.”
The main point of this supposed “War on Christmas” is that some anti-God groups have made it their mission to wipe out all mention of Christmas from the public square. Be it government and community buildings or public and private businesses. It is all a conspiracy to have people say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and thereby take us all one step closer to the end of Christianity. It all sounds terrible.
It also sounds ripe for mockery. Take the photo to the right for an example. A Facebook friend of mine posted the image to the right. I can’t remember or find which friend, I just remember seeing it on a friend’s feed. If you are the friend that posted this image please let me know so I can give you a hat tip.
Anyhow, the worry about this so called “War on Christmas” is that suddenly people can feel like they are being persecuted by an action that isn’t really persecution. “After all,” they think, “this is war we are talking about. If all those ‘happy holidays’ are a part of a war then they are about attacking an enemy, and we’re the enemy.” Thus many well meaning Christians fear that they are in the cross hairs of an enemy’s ideological weapon. This sort of behavior isn’t a war on Christmas and it definitely isn’t persecution against Christians. There is real persecution of believers in the world, but this is not such real persecution.
But what if there really is a war on Christmas and it is different from this so-called “War on Christmas”? When Paul talks about the Lord’s Supper he states the following concerning the manner in which the Corinthians were celebrating the Eucharist.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NIV)
Paul simply states that there is a manner in which we can “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (What 1 Corinthians 11:26 says we are doing when we participate in communion) that is unworthy of the celebration itself. That unworthy manner actually denigrates the actual celebration. It turns it from one thing, that remembers the Lord and unites His people, into something entirely different, that rejects the God of love and separates His people. How we celebrate something matters.
What if this is also true of how we celebrate Christmas? What if the way we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the coming of God to His creation, the Incarnation of God, shows whether we really trust in Him or not. Shouldn’t the manner in which a follower of Christ celebrates and remembers the birth of Jesus bring “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)? When a follower of Christ celebrates the coming of the Lord to His creation shouldn’t it involve “proclaim[ing] freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)? Basically, shouldn’t those of us who are disciples of Jesus be more concerned with whether we are celebrating His birth in a manner that He would be pleased with, instead of griping about whether are not a minimum wage cashier says “Merry Christmas” or not?
I fear that the real war on Christmas is more about getting Jesus’s disciples to go into debt to buy lots of junk that nobody needs, while turning the celebration of His birth into a time of stress and worry, rather than joy. The psuedo-war on Christmas is just a ploy, a diversion, to make us forget about the real war. The real war on Christmas is a war that is trying to get Christians to treat Christmas as something it is not. Christmas is not about us giving lots of crap to people. Christmas is not about being busier than we can handle. Christmas is not about going into debt. Christmas is not about Black Friday. Christmas is about Jesus entering the world. To use the words of the 1st chapter of the Gospel According to John, Christmas is about us celebrating when “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish” (John 1:14 MSG). That’s what the true war on Christmas is fighting against. It is a war to keep us from remembering to celebrate in incarnational methods the time God became incarnate and showed up to free His people.
If we just focus on whether a company has Christmas decorations or not, then we’ll never stop to think “How does Jesus really want me to celebrate His birth?” Then we might celebrate the birth of our Savior in an unworthy manner and miss the point of Christmas completely. I pray that all of us who are followers of Jesus fight against that. There’s a war out there folks. Fight the good fight.