Friday, December 3, 2010

The Annual Christmas Rant

I am just being honest in the title of this post because I do expect that this will become an annual event for as long as the whole "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign rages on in the culture war.

Lest anyone think I'm an anti-Christmas curmudgeon I want to make it clear that despite suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) Christmas is actually one of my very favorite times of the year. I love Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the gathering with family and all that goes along with celebrating Christmas. I love Advent. I love this season in the church calendar where we anticipate the coming of Emmanuel into the world. I just don't feel obligated to make the rest of the world feel or do the same.

As far back as two weeks before Thanksgiving I was seeing the yearly "loyalty test" posts start appearing as the facebook statuses of my friends. You know the ones. The ones that say something like, "I'm keeping 'Christ' in Christmas...who's with me?" (Sponsored I might add by a site called "SonGear" which makes money off selling 'witness wear' to the masses but that's a rant for another time.) Those always make me 1) wonder what my friends think when I don't join the party and 2) want to be REALLY snarky in a way that would upset some well meaning folks that I care deeply about. So I keep my thoughts to myself on facebook, hit delete on the spam e-mails with the same messages and then come here and subject the blogosphere to my ranting and raving.

I guess for me it comes down to this, what message are we sending to the world when we insist upon acting like this season is the exclusive property of the Christian religion? What does it say about us as a Christian culture that we are so determined to have our holiday acknowledged as superior to all others that we consider the term "Happy Holidays" an outright attack on our religious liberties?

First of all we stole the date from the Pagan religion. That is an undeniable historical fact so it seems disingenuous at best to then claim, loudly, that "Jesus is the REASON for the season". Secondly the other two Abrahamic faiths ALSO have holy days (holidays) in this season typically. Hanukkah always arrives around Christmas and quite often Eid in the Muslim world is near Christmas as well. This doesn't even take into consideration cultural holidays like Kwanzaa, St. Nicholas Day or Boxing Day. Given all of this where do we get off insisting that the proper greeting for this season is strictly "Merry Christmas"? It seems to me that the more accurate, and the more respectful, greeting to those whom we do not know well enough to know what holidays they celebrate is in fact "Happy Holidays". To those we DO know well enough we should be gracious enough to wish them a Happy Hanukkah, or Eid mubarak or Happy Kwanzaa or whatever it is that they celebrate. A good Yule to our Pagan friends perhaps?

And perhaps that is the root of the issue, do most American Christians even HAVE friends outside our stained glassed ghetto? Have we become so insulated from the world that we really believe that we are and should be the top of the heap? I don't know that I actually know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa, among my African American friends there seems to be some contempt toward it as a made up holiday but I do have friends that celebrate Hanukkah and Eid and even the Yuletide and I hear our insistence on "owning" the holiday season through their ears and it's not a sweet sound.

Sometimes I think the American church would do well to take heed to Peter's admonitions to the wives of unbelieving husbands. 1 Pet 3:1-2 "...if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words...when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

Oftentimes I fear that the purity and reverence is often drowned out by our words and the "battles" we choose. This season is one of those times.

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