The Advent season has officially begun.
Cheri and I put our tree up and the decorations. Our shopping is almost done, save that one difficult person to shop for. Our soundtrack for the season is the record Vince Guaraldi created for Charlie Brown. For the next month, I’ll try to not let the laundry pile up in the chair next to the Christmas tree.
But you know that in between hanging lights and caroling, a lot of people are rolling up their sleeves for another Christmas tradition, the annual Christmas culture war.
You know what I’m talking about. We’ll hear a few stories from around the country – lawsuits forcing Nativities to be taken down, or retail stores that forbid employees to wish shoppers “Merry Christmas.”
And a bunch of Christians will scream and shout that those godless heathen Jesus-haters are taking Christmas away.
It almost seems that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is coming true.
So what battlegrounds in the war for Christmas matter this year? How will the fight to save Christmas turn out?
Public Displays of Affection for Jesus
This is a primary annual battleground for diehard Christmas defenders. Nativities on public display are like lightning rods now. The resulting lawsuits usually mean that plastic baby Jesus is packed up in storage, or the shepherds are joined by some kind of anthropomorphic candelabra and crescent moon, creating some kind of United Nations of religion, equally offensive to everyone.
My verdict? This fight does not matter. The first Nativity scene wasn’t exactly on public display in front of the courthouse. We forget that the only witnesses to the birth really were animals and shepherds, (if anyone at all.)
You Will Wish Me a Merry Christmas
Fight number two happens in our temples of consumerist hedonism, the retail store.
Apparently at issue is the magic incantation that the depressed cashiers invoke when handing shoppers their receipt. In order to have a merry Christmas, Christians need a random stranger who they have no connection with to verbally say “Merry Christmas.” To substitute these sacred magic words with “Happy Holidays,” is akin to having a gypsy curse put on your head.
Being offended by Christmas seems petty and moronic to me. So does being offended by strangers not telling you which holiday you celebrate.
My verdict for this fight? I could not care less. The first Christmas came, and the only ones who were saying anything about it were angels, not retail clerks.
Jump Off a Cliff
Although this isn’t a traditional part of the Christmas fight, there is the tiny issue that we may not have any money next year because the country is going to plunge over some proverbial “fiscal cliff,” which is an intentionally frightening analogy for an abstract and hypothetical economic situation. Glenn Beck said we’d ‘definitely’ fall over some kind of cliff in 2011. Then he said it would definitely happen in 2012. He might be right, just under the wire. But maybe he’s just the Pat Robertson of economic armageddon prophesy.
My verdict for the fiscal cliff: you guessed it, it does not matter.
You know, we sit our kids in front of the TV every year to watch The Grinch. Maybe we should watch it again.
It Came Just the Same
Christians on the side of “protecting” Christmas might compare the anti-Christmas crowd to a bunch of Grinches trying to steal their holiday.
But they miss one very important plot point of the Grinch.
The Grinch takes everything from the Whos. Every attack we can imagine on Christmas, the Grinch would have carried out…
…and yet, the Grinch fails. Despite his efforts, Christmas came just the same. Christmas, it turns out doesn’t come from a store (or a store cashier.)
None of the fights that will be fought over Christmas will matter, because win or lose, Christmas will still come. We are fighting for silly traditions. But the Savior God is still Immanuel, God with us. There are lots of people who can tell you about years that they willingly gave up putting up a tree, or they didn’t have enough money for gifts. And Christmas came anyway.
Don’t waste your Christmas season pursuing silly things. Spend it pursuing the Savior.