The Only War on Christmas Is the War Within the Church

The clerk at the grocery store said, “Have a happy holiday.”

Her inclusive greeting didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The next store I went to had shelves of Christmas lights, Hanukah cards and Kwanzaa candles.

The mix of displays didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The kids at the elementary school Winter Festival sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman, but no songs about Jesus or a manger.

merryoldsanta

Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa Claus (1881) Wikipedia

The secular songs didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The Battle Lies Within

When some insist there is a WAR ON CHRISTMAS! (all caps and exclamation point required) you might think I disagree with them.

I don’t.

I completely agree there is a war on celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet the attack comes not from the culture around us but from within the Body of Christ itself. Two examples – all too real examples – come to mind:

  1. It appears in the guise of a Christian filmmaker putting pressure on mothers to be always upbeat so their children think Christmas is never a sad time. (See, Kirk Cameron’s “Saving Christmas” Promo Puts a Heavy – and Heretical – Burden on Moms.)

    saving-christmas

    Apparently Kirk is going to “put Christ back in Christmas” by bashing people with a candy cane.

  2. It appears when a Christian organization puts national retailers on a naughty or nice list, depending on whether their stores overtly include Christmas greetings in their marketing or instead set up inclusive holiday decorations and instruct their employees to say “Happy Holidays” out of recognition that not all their customers are Christians. (See, The American Family Association’s Naughty or Nice List.)

You can probably add a third and a fourth and a fifth example. In the two I came up with, and many related instances, the horrifying aspect is that they are actually focused on money, not Jesus.

The AFA Naughty or Nice List, after all, is about where to spend your money. Never mind that the people who work at the stores in your town are your neighbors and can use the love of Jesus at Christmas. AFA says to avoid those people.

Kirk Cameron’s movie promo may sound like his concern is for moms, but in watching it I found it more filled with slick marketing than ministry concern. “Hey moms, buy tickets for my movie and you’ll learn how to be a super Christmas mom. Your family’s happiness depends on you getting this right!”

Getting the Season Right

Which brings me to what I mean by the war on Christmas being waged from within. Almost every time I read about it I see it in the context of money. Kirk Cameron is trying to increase ticket sales for his movie, and the AFA is telling you that your money is best spent at retailers who have learned how to market the birth of Jesus in their pursuit of profit.

 It’s an age old battle within.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13.)

It’s a battle that even religious leaders can engage in, as Jesus went on to explain.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:14-15.)

Why encourage turning Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation of Almighty and Eternal God, into a marketing tool for retailers and filmmakers and more? The only answer is that even some in church leadership and other prominent positions in the body of Christ “value highly [what] is detestable in God’s sight.” The insistence on supporting those who have shown they can market Jesus’s birth for their own profit is evidence of a love of money over God. These are modern Pharisees insisting they know best how to get to God, and that the way to show you are with them is by spending your money the way they tell you to.

That may be the way to show you are with them, but it is not the way to show you are with Jesus. This is the way to show you belong to Jesus, in the words of Jesus himself:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35.)

The only war being waged on Christmas is by those who are telling you that there is more to Christmas than loving God and the people God puts in your life, whether in your family or at the store.

Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washign Peter's Feet (1852-56) Wikipedia

Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet (1852-56) Wikipedia

How else will they listen to you long enough to have a conversation about Jesus? It’s true he’s the reason for the season, the one who came to live with those he came to save, and that’s the real reason to celebrate Christmas and tell others of his birth.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23.)

God is with you wherever you go: the store with the Kwanzaa candles, the checkout line where the clerk says Happy Holidays, the public school where the children sing of snowmen, reindeer and a jolly old elf. These are the people God wants you to love this holiday season and always.

You can do it because Jesus is Immanuel, God with you.

***

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The Only War on Christmas Is the War Within the Church

  1. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this, Tim.

    The ending in particular is a good reminder, and I really appreciate the way you frame this: as a “war” within the church and the individual Christian, and nowhere else.

    May we be like Scrooge and learn to keep Christmas in our hearts, all year long.

  2. This place sure would be a lot better off if we just stopped reproducing, don’t you think Tim?

  3. Tim, I particularly feel the tension right now, with an elderly loved one in the slow process of dying. I lead a small congregation, and I do not want this to overshadow things for those in my church in this holiday season. But–how am I to “celebrate,” with this happening in my personal life? I wrote a blog post about it:
    Gentle Prayers of Comfort and Support #matterofprayer http://wp.me/p43g3i-MB
    Thanks for letting me blow off some steam. @chaplaineliza

    • Tim says:

      You can blow off steam here any time, Eliza. Thanks for the link; I hope others will click through to read it too. I left a comment there and shared on Twitter too.

  4. I appreciate this, Tim, because these “war on Christmas” arguments really bug me. I know people who decry having greetings like Happy Holidays being “imposed” on them because of “political correctness” — yet it gets to the point where THEY are the ones making other people uncomfortable if they don’t use the “right” greeting. And there is nothing, zero, zip, zilch in the Bible that even tells us to CELEBRATE the birth of Jesus, let alone greet one another in a particular way! Sorry, I may be focusing in on a very small aspect of your post but it does bother me when things that have nothing to do with our faith are given such prominence and used as excuses for demonizing “the culture” and avoiding our own flaws. (Excuse the quotation marks, too — I may have overdid those….)

    • Tim says:

      I totally get what you’re saying, Jeannie. It’s like they’re saying, “Stop it with your holiday greetings and let me force my beliefs on you.”

  5. FW Rez says:

    For many, their Evangelical “World View” is that we are to be engaged in fighting culture wars. Framing the issues you discuss as a “War on Christmas” is another manifestation of these warriors looking for a battle. By the way, Tim, If you are not fully engaged in these issues as defined by the Culture War generals then you might just lose your “Evangelical” card.

  6. I agree with Jeannie, Christmas should be the celebration of the coming of baby Jesus not an imposition of force. Keep up the Christmas Greetings I say and bring on the sticky pudding.

  7. “The only war being waged on Christmas is by those who are telling you that there is more to Christmas than loving God and the people God puts in your life, whether in your family or at the store.”

    Amen! 🙂

  8. muzjik says:

    Re: the retail aspect of “The War on Christmas”…yes, it’s incredibly foolish to impose spiritual-related decor and greeting requirements upon retailers.
    But the only reason any of this got attention is, a number of years ago, retailers jumped on a band-wagon and sought to forbid employees who wished to say ‘Merry Christmas” to customers who were buying wrapping paper and candy canes and Christmas sweaters from doing so (with the added threat of termination).
    The hypocrisy of forbidding a “Christmas” specific greeting in a store that’s been decorated in trees and tinsel since mid-October and seeks to profit off the holiday by running ad after ad after ad inciting people to come in to do their “Christmas” shopping struck many people as “huh?” and, of course, drew media attention.

    • Tim says:

      In the non retail setting people also say HH instead of MC, and I hear some complaints.

      • muzjik says:

        I know. The pendulum has swung so (non-thinking) Christians are perturbed by someone choosing to say “Happy Holidays” rather than being perturbed if someone was intimidated or forbidden to say “Merry Christmas”.
        Which is why we got the stupidity of the “Starbuck’s Cup Outrage”.

  9. Pastor Bob says:

    “…[The] inclusive greeting didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

    “The mix of displays didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

    “ … secular songs didn’t affect my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

    “Which brings me to what I mean by the war on Christmas being waged from within. Almost every time I read about it I see it in the context of money. Kirk Cameron is trying to increase ticket sales for his movie, and the AFA is telling you that your money is best spent at retailers who have learned how to market the birth of Jesus in their pursuit of profit.”
    — Interesting, but not as inclusive as suggested.

    There are those who are offended at the secularization of a religious observance, and there are those who are offended at the observance of something NOT mentioned in the Bible to be honored.

    “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:14-15.)”
    — Creatively, this could fit, but perhaps not. The secularization (alluded to above) has weakened this.

    This is also a time when giving increases, yet as the world – nation sees less of a need for God in their lives, there has been noticeable drops in giving.

    When the name of “Jesus” is banned because it might offend some groups of people, we are taught ‘sensitivity’. When we hear these same word police use the name in vain, we learn more ‘sensitivity.’
    When the atheist says “Merry Christmas” and says that his faith in his beliefs are not threatened by this seasonal greeting, the word police are perplexed. When the Jews and Muslims wish everyone “Merry Christmas” these same word watchers retreat.

    The real challenge is not those who fear offending others, or that others will be offended. It is not even those who put marketing principles over perceived ideas of faith (Many Christian bookstores open on Sundays for those who wish make Christmas purchases and not many complain). The real challenge is internal – on the personal level.

    • Who is He (to you),
    • What have you done to demonstrate Him to a lost and dying world and
    • What have you done to share Him and all He has to offer?

    It is not just a “war on Christmas”, but part of the external war on the church.
    We are required to stand and respond (fight is NOT the first option), but we are to let HIM (and only HIM) guide our words and actions.

  10. That is my favorite name of the Lord, God with us. What a fitting close to this wonderful post.

  11. Just Now says:

    May your Christmas with your family be sacredly special in 2016 and always, Tim.

Talk to me (or don't)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s