Yesterday, December 26th, I went out into the world to take advantage of some sales on discounted wrapping paper. Yeah the crowds suck, but the quality stuff is expensive so I’m not paying full price. In every store, Christmas was already being dismantled and put on clearance in favor of the next retail season (presumably Valentine’s Day but who can keep up with all the holidays churned out by greeting card companies?).
You know what I didn’t see, or hear on the news? Anybody protesting the War on Christmas.
“But wait!” you may object, “That’s because Christmas is over.”
Ah, not so. The Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a song about epically impractical gifts. The Christmas season – or Christmastide – as defined on the church calendar starts on December 25th (you can slide into the evening of the 24th) and ends with Epiphany on January 6th.
And that’s how I know the War On Christmas is, to paraphrase the beloved Colonel Sherman Potter of M*A*S*H, nothing but a steaming basket of mule muffins.
All that talk about people being “forced” to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas while we do our frenzied shopping? We shouldn’t be wanting them to wish us merry anything. The roughly four weeks before Christmas comprise the season of Advent. It’s supposed to be a period of reflection and anticipation. It’s dark, people. Not cheery. Essentially it’s a time to focus on how rotten the world is and why we all need Jesus. Observing Advent makes the celebration on Christmas (and the following eleven days) more meaningful than “Whew! Thank God that rush is over!”
Sincerity is definitely a holiday sentiment, and is there anything less sincere than being offended by something you haven’t taken the time to understand? If a Good Christian™ understands the traditions of their faith and is greeted by a cashier with “Merry Christmas” before December 25th, shouldn’t they be asking why retail is waging a War On Advent?! Are you a Good Christian™ or not?! C’mon folks … if your argument is that liberals are trying to do away with tradition, shouldn’t you know what the tradition actually is? And maybe stop to consider how Jesus taught us to treat our (real or perceived) enemies. He told the disciples that when people rejected them, they should leave town … not sue to put a living nativity in the town square.
It seems those forces who want to implement a sort of tribalist Christian Sharia prioritizing compliance over grace are the ones who’ve really sold out. Christmas is bigger business than ever, despite the fact that some public spaces which are inhabited by people of many (or no) faiths don’t pander to it. Christmas isn’t going anywhere. Yet somehow they manage to drum up new offenses. The Starbucks cup is green! Someone said “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive! The candy cane is a J for Jesus – so there! (Actually it’s a shepherd’s crook and turning it upside-down is an accident of geometry that doesn’t change that; it’s like standing on your head under the mistletoe and expecting a kiss: you can call it a pucker…)
And here’s the kicker. Lots and lots of people are offended by these things because they are told they should be, and would never have given them a second thought on their own; green cups, happy holidays (a contraction of “holy days” don’tcha know!), and candy canes are all pleasant things.
Just because someone says they’re speaking for Jesus, doesn’t mean they are. If they’re yelling or insulting people while they insist on Merry Christmas … do the math. The War on Christmas – the faith-based, traditional-church-calendar, love-and-peace, twelve-day, keep-it-in-your-heart-all-year-long Christmas – is being waged by people profaning and exploiting Jesus’s name for profit.
Too many people believe that all conservatives are shrieking fundamentalists trying to cram Christmas down our throats and all liberals are godless, Muslim communists trying to scrub every cross and manger from the landscape, and react to those media-driven stereotypes rather than the evidence of practically every person they encounter in the real world. Seriously – when’s the last time you ran into an extremist of either ilk? Not just somebody who is different from you, but somebody who insists you have to be like them. You know why it feels like there are so many? Because that’s what ends up in the news and on Facebook. I’ve been to many protests, and most people on both sides have been peaceful, if fervent. (Not the damn Nazis. Never defend the damn Nazis.) Bad actors are usually a fringe element … but they’re a newsworthy fringe element.
Don’t give the crazies and the craziness-pushers power. Don’t buy into the manufactured controversy. And for all that’s holy don’t respond to “Happy Holidays” with a “Merry Christmas” that’s in the same tone as a “&%$# you.” Especially when it’s still &%$#ing Advent. That’s about as un-Christmas-like as it gets.
Here’s a thought. If Christmas is really that important to us, maybe we should keep it going not just in our hearts but also in our deeds all year long. Set aside the 25th of every month (or a day of your choice; I’m not the boss of you) to give to someone in need. And if we’re up for a challenge, we could pick someone we don’t like very much … because Jesus.
Christmas Day isn’t the finale . It’s the overture.