The buzz on talk radio and on cable TV describes a War on Christmas. It’s true. There is a War on Christmas. But it’s not the war you’ll hear the windbag pundits talk about.
That false crisis centers on whether sales circulars and store banners proclaim “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and why store clerks salute you with “Season’s Greetings!” That’s a war? Oh, come on.
The real War on Christmas is not whether “Merry Christmas” gets edged out of the crass commercial marketplace, those houses of material worship where people spend way too much money on stuff they really don’t need, or for people who already have everything they could possibly want.
The real War on Christmas is evidenced in the growing reality that the shopping and the decorations and the overconsumption is actually the major part of our culture’s celebration of Christmas.
Why get upset about “Christmas” being dropped from the commercial marketplace unless you think there is some intrinsic connection between the miracle of God’s incarnation and maxing out your credit cards at the shopping mall?
The real War on Christmas has been waged for years by retailers and consumers who have degraded the meaning of Christmas to little more than a cheesy sales gimmick. In other words, we are all guilty.
Christians can fight back. We can remind the world of the miracle of Christmas — that God loves us so much, God came down to earth to save us, to dwell with us, to teach us. And God took the form of an ordinary human child born to an ordinary human family under dire circumstances and in the midst of violence. We can tell the Christmas story.
And what a story that is! Matthew’s Christmas story gives us terrorism in the form of Herod, a Saddam Hussein of his time and place. Insecure of his power, Herod is threatened by the arrival of an infant king, and he orders the slaughter of male infants of his own people, in his own land.
Jesus and his parents flee for their lives! They become refugees on the run from their own government, much like the refugees in the Darfur region of the Sudan today, and like the people of Kosovo did in the 1990s. (For a mind-stretching exercise, imagine that if Jesus arrived today, he might be born to a refugee family in Darfur!)
Here’s the miracle: The birth of Jesus, the arrival of God to save us, came in the midst of intense human cruelty, poverty and sinfulness. This was God’s choice, through which God sent us a powerful message: God signaled, in effect, “I am with you, all of you, in the worst of the worst in order that you may have the best of the best. I am with you forever so that you may be with me forever.”
This is the meaning of Christmas worth fighting for. Let the shopkeepers call their silly winter sales what they wish. (In fact, why not keep Christ OUT of them.) Christians proclaim Emmanuel — God is with us — not only with their lips and shopping habits, but in their lives and hearts and souls.
(Published on Dec. 19, 2005)
Copyright (c) 2005, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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