My latest for Sojourners
Black Friday has come and gone; amid the tales of super sales and throngs of people, stories were reported about injuries and fights. For me, saving a few bucks is not worth the lines, the waiting and the hustle. Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is upon us. In the Christian liturgical calendar (how the Church tells time) December 1 was the beginning of Advent. Advent is the season of waiting and expecting the coming of the Christ child on Christmas Day. Maybe it’s just me but it seems like every year Christmas decorations are being put up earlier and earlier thus losing the magic and the expectation that Advent has to bring.
Children hold on to the magic, wonder and awe that comes with the season of Christmas. We adults, on the other hand, we tend make it a chore. It doesn’t have to be this way. Some people however are not satisfied with the notion that not everyone in the country celebrates Christmas or even promotes Christmas.
The American Family Association has been tracking major companies to see how they promote Christmas. They came up with the “Naughty or Nice” list where they have examined different company’s websites, circulars, commercials and stores noting how many times they use the word “Christmas” if at all. According to their website, “If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word “Christmas,” then the company is considered as censoring ‘Christmas.’” Their research has uncovered that if you shop at Radio Shack, Barnes & Noble, Family Dollar and Foot Locker (just to name a few) then you are part of the problem and thus should be placed on the “naughty list.”
It’s an interesting note, however, that the phrase “naughty or nice list” is not technically Christian. Sure Saint Nicholas was a real person but the jolly bearded man in a red and white suit that “watches you when you are sleeping” and makes a “list and checks it twice” is a product of commercialism. The Santa we all know and love today is straight from the Coca Cola factory. But I digress…
The American Family Association believes that there is a full out “war on Christmas.” Well, I would have to say that they are correct but not for the reasons they postulate.
The real “war on Christmas” is not when cashier says “Happy Holidays.”
The real “war on Christmas” is not when people refer to a Christmas tree as a “Holiday Tree.”
The real “war on Christmas” is when Christians support the overspending and mass consumption propagated by our “spend, spend, spend” culture.
The real “war on Christmas” is when we reduce this holiday to a feeling or a moment.
The real “war on Christmas” is when we equate our love for someone by how big the price tag of the gift is.
The real “war on Christmas” is when Christians only think about doing charity work in December.
The real “war on Christmas” is teaching our children or grandchildren the “reason for the season” but make more about toys and gifts under the tree.
The real “war on Christmas” is when we are more worried about saving a buck than we are about the millions of people in this world without access to clean water or medicine or that there are 22,000 homeless children in New York City alone.
The real “war on Christmas” is when Americans spend $450 BILLION on Christmas; however it would only take $20 Billion to ensure that all people in the world could have access to clean water for a year.
The real “war on Christmas” is when Americans buy products because they are cheap without thinking twice about the person who made it, their working conditions, their pay or even their age. (Yes, that’s right their age. In some countries it is LEGAL to employ children.)
This so called “war” is something that Christians every year are participating in but point the judgmental fingers at others.
The real “war on Christmas” is something that can be stopped but it will not happen by making a “naughty or nice” list.
Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas and I love hearing the story of Christ coming to the world again. However the act of acquiring things should not be the central focus of Christmas. Neither is worrying about what catch phrase people say in a store.
It is not the cashier’s job to share the Church’s story of God coming to the world. This story of the incarnation of God is MY story to tell, the Church’s story to tell, all of Christ’s followers story to tell. Christmas has the power to make a difference in the world today. Imagine what we could do if we chose this Christmas to share our love in ways that cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree. What if we took some of the money that we would have spent on each other and gave it to people who were in need– then Christmas could change the world.
So let’s call a metaphoric “cease fire” and stop this so-called war on Christmas.
We have some work to do.