(The latest hullabaloo over Starbucks and the plain red Christmas cups reminded me of this, one of my favorite posts from ten years ago. It’s not exactly the same situation, but it’s related and relevant today. By the way…does it really rise to the level of “hullabaloo” if one publicity-seeking moron raises a stink about a non-issue? I don’t think so. Some of the links may be outdated. You get the idea. Be gentle.)
We like Christmas, yes, we do –
We like Christmas, how ’bout you?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight, since it is an indisputable, undeniable truth of life in the world in which we live: Opinions are like…navels! – everybody’s got one. The corollary to that truth is, of course, that you are entitled to my opinion, whether you asked for it or not. And vice versa.
OK, with all that out of the way, let’s tackle this whole battle over Christmas/winter-holiday issue, shall we?
The great Alabama Christmas classic notwithstanding, this is not a peaceful Christmas time. Just about everywhere you turn, it seems somebody’s getting their stockings hung and their bells rung because of Christmas, or winter holiday, or whatever. As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so are stories of retailers, schools, governments and whomever else discouraging, disparaging, or outright forbidding the recognition of Christmas flying through our media to our inboxes.
Now, I’m neither an intellectual nor spiritual giant. Nor do I play one on TV. But I’ve been thinking about this issue, and here’s what fell out of my Moleskine this morning. Your mileage may vary…
How should we as believers – not just “cultural Christians” – respond to the “Great Christmas Wars of Aught-Five”?
How about this?
Don’t go out of your way to “offend” others.
And don’t go out of your way to be “offended” by others.
- We can honor and serve Jesus. How can anyone – a government, a school, a company, a retailer – keep you and me from honoring Jesus? The simple answer: They can’t. If it were suddenly “illegal” to celebrate Christmas, would it stop me from celebrating His birth, His life, His completed mission, His forever reign? If it were suddenly “illegal” to name the name of Jesus, would it change my faith in, and relationship to Him? If it would, then there may be more serious issues than a store clerk’s mandated cheerful greeting. Remember, Herod couldn’t keep the Wise Guys from Back East from searching for and honoring Jesus.
- We can offer the best gifts we can in the spirit of Jesus. In my neck of the woods, at least, there are very, very few people who will be truly upset or offended by someone sharing a genuine token of love, concern, and caring, whether or not they themselves observe the Christmas holiday. The coffee you buy for the next person in line, the packs of chewing gum and/or Hot Wheels cars you give out to those around you, the yard you rake, the limbs you pick up, the groceries and diapers you provide, the mission offering…all these simple gifts better reflect what Christmas is all about than yapping about someone “taking Christ out of Christmas.” Very few people will not respond to selfless acts of love and service. After all, for “offense” to really happen, there has to be the intent to offend. How about you and I sanctify Christ in our hearts, and live out our hope in practical, caring ways? How about we leave the rest to Jesus and His incredible power to move into our neighborhood and bring good tidings of great joy, glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill to men?
- We can refuse to be offended by those who – for whatever reason – choose not to participate in the best part of the holiday season. Suppose we just refused to take offense when the culture at large dishonors or ridicules our faith? In America, at least, we have the right to express and practice our faith. But we don’t have the right to not be offended. Seems to me our world is becoming more and more like the world the first-century Church faced. To be sure, there is open hostility toward Jesus and toward His apprentices. But there always has been. (Here’s a clue: There always will be!) But on the whole, we’ve got a pretty wide-open opportunity to talk about Jesus and our faith in Him. The problem is, we need to learn to compete in the marketplace of ideas – realizing the possible consequences – just like Peter, James, John, Paul, and others did. Just like those guys, we don’t have the luxury of having our position accepted and validated “just because.” If our faith, our ideas, our paradigms won’t stand up to a little give-and-take, maybe they aren’t adequate for eternity, either.
We can enjoy our celebration. And we can offer the watching world a positive witness to our Lord.