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.
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 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:
- 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.)
- 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.
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.