For the last several years I have had the same recurring conversations with similar people during this post-halloween-pre-christmas season. The conversation usually revolves around how secular and consumeristic and politically correct our Christmas has become because of any one of the following reasons: how early the stores start beating the sales drum, the shift from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays,” or the rampant spending that takes place.
The conversation always is about how Christmas is no longer about the birth of Jesus (who wouldn’t have been born during December, btw) and how it is THEIR fault. THEY (stores, government, political correctness) have STOLEN the Christ out of Christmas, right?
Wrong. They, whoever they are, are not responsible for Christmas. Can I say that again? The stores, the government, the post office, the media – they are not responsible for Christmas.
I am. We are. You and me.
A friend of mine, Jim Herrington (he blogs here ), reminds me regularly that we are witnessing the death of cultural christendom. As such, I believe we, the church, are also living in the midst of our greatest opportunity! However, because we are indeed watching the slow decline and eventual death of “church” as the nation new it in the 1940’s & 1950’s, it should not be a surprise that in our culture the systems and structures are doing exactly what they are.
Stores, big box stores like Lowes, and little mom & pop shops, exist to sell goods to people who will buy them and in the selling of the goods, make money for the owners as well as the manufacturers & suppliers of those goods. What does that mean? It means this – Best Buy does not exist for the purpose of protecting Christmas or any other Christian tradition. That isn’t their job. Their job is to sell me what I need (actually, Best Buy sells a lot of what I want and very little of what I need); their job is to make money for their owners; their job is to provide jobs for workers. See where this is going?
Years ago the USPS told their mail carriers they couldn’t say, “Merry Christmas.” The right side of evangelicalism went ballistic. The Post Office isn’t the church. It exists for the purpose of delivering the mail. But we, the church, got angry.
Because we want someone else to be responsible for our faith, our discipleship, our connection with God. We feel better about spending exorbitant amounts of money at Toys-r-Us when the cashier says, “Merry Christmas.”
But here’s the truth, it is my responsibility to remember Jesus’ birth (which, btw, Jesus doesn’t even ask us to do…). It is my privilege to remember not only Christ’s birth but EVERYTHING about it – from Genesis to Revelation – and be transformed by it. My capacity to celebrate Jesus does not depend upon the box store’s decision to begin Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday (which, btw, might actually be an answer to prayer for some of the employees who worked that day and needed money for rent!).
I am glad the stores, the government, the schools and the media are not responsible for “keeping Christ in Christmas.” During this time when the church is experience such dramatic decline and the North American version of Christmas has become about consumerism & economics, we have opportunity like never before!
Today, when people no longer have to hide the fact that they aren’t Christian, gives those of us who earnestly are being transformed by the Gospel an amazing opportunity to really be different. Different from cultural; and, different from culture’s understanding of church.
Jesus calls us a light on a hill which in darkness cannot be hidden. That’s cool. I like that. I want to live that kind of life. Will you live it with me?