Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Culture War Misfires on Christmas

I have decided not to participate in the annual war on the "War on Christmas." I know as we get closer, and the decorations start going up, and the shopping gets going full swing, we'll begin to hear about it. You know what I'm talking about, those stores that refuse to acknowledge Christmas. Their web sites refer to Christmas trees as "Holiday Trees," and their greeter say "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas." They've somehow become Public Enemy #1 over the last several years. But I'm going to completely honest with you: I really don't care.

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas special. You know the one where everyone is so caught up in the glitz and commercialism of Christmas, that they forget the real meaning, until Linus toats his blanket onto the stage and recites the story of Jesus' birth. It did a good job when I was a kid of reminding me of why we actually had Christmas, reminding me that new toys and Santa Claus and Christmas trees and jingle bells weren't the real "reason for the season."

While it stills does a good job reminding people about the birth of Jesus, it long ago lost the war to make sure people remembered that birth as the main reason for the Christmas season. Since that special first aired, Christmas has only become more commercial, and most Christians have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. Ask yourself this question: If Christians really thought Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, why would they care if the stores where they bought their presents acknowledged it or not? What does spending too much money on mainly useless gifts that usually don't last a month have to do with the birth of Jesus? Nothing, that's what.

I say that to say this: I like giving and getting gifts. I like the jingle bells and Santa Claus and all of that stuff that is associated with the holiday. I just don't think it has anything to do with Jesus, and I refuse to pretend otherwise. Don't get me wrong: I'm aware of some of the Christian origins of some of these Christmas related ideas and practices; I'm just saying they have long since lost those lost that meaning to most people.

So this is what I propose: We Christians need to understand that there are two very different holidays that take place on December 25th. One of them is remembering the birth of the God-man, Jesus, the savior of the world, who died for the sins of the world. We should spend time remembering that, and meditating on that, and thanking God for that during the Christmas season. But the other holiday that takes place December 25th is about Santa Claus and gift giving and jingle bells and mistletoe. It happens on the same day, but it has nothing to do with Jesus.

That doesn't mean there is something wrong with all of that stuff. It just means we should pretend it is related to the birth of Jesus. Celebrate them both. Have fun with it. I know I will. But don't confuse the two. When you go to the mall, or to Wal-Mart, or Target, or Home Depot, and spend hours looking for the right gift, you are not celebrating Jesus' birth, and you ought not need an acknowledgement from the people there that you are.

So I won't be boycotting any stores this year. As a matter of fact, I might, just for the heck of it, try to specifically patronize those that don't try to gain my business by selling me some false idea of Christmas. I think that might have it more right than they know when they tell me "Happy Holidays."

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