That Time of Year Again

Fox News’ “war” is designed to criticize the “secularization” of our culture wrought by atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists, progressives, and separation of church and state zealots — i.e. Democrats. This irreligious coalition force is allegedly waging a strategic offensive on Christmas, trying to banish the sacred symbols of the season, denying our religious heritage, and even undermining the spiritual rubrics upon which our great nation is built…. But what we actually have here is a theological problem, where cultural and commercial symbols are confused with truly Christian ones, and the meaning of the holy season is missed all together” –Jim Wallis

Well friends it is that time of year again…time to get ready for battle and begin to fight the “war on Christmas.”  It’s the time when “true” Christians defend their faith and their right to say “Merry Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays and “Jesus is the reason for the season” or put Christ back in Christmas (BTW: Xmas is not a secular attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass, while the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός which comes into English as “Christ” so there you go…).  It is time once again to be aghast at atheist’s attempts to have Winter Solstice shrines displayed alongside our beloved Nativity Scenes.

I too believe there is a war on Christmas.  However, I don’t believe it has anything to do with the concerns the news anchors express on television.  The very real war on Christmas has to do with trying to make us forget what Christmas truly is: the celebration of the Incarnation: God becoming human.  Emmanuel: God with us.  The real war on Christmas has to do with equating Christmas with the insane consumerism it has become.

As the story is told in the Gospel of Luke Jesus was not born into a palace but a stable.  He did not bring good news to princes but to the poor.  Jesus lived his entire life teaching people to love God above all things, especially wealth and power.  He died because he believed in a vision for all people rooted in love, justice and equality especially for the marginalized of which he was one.  He taught his disciples to share their resources, forgive their enemies, and pray for those who persecuted them and he recognized and affirmed the humanity of every living being.  I cannot imagine that this Jesus would care one iota if storeowners and workers greeted customers with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  If Jesus walked into the Mall on Black Friday I suspect he would be overturning the tables of the moneychangers as he did 2000 years ago in the Jerusalem temple where he believed the people in power exchanged the worship of God for the worship of secular gain.

If you really want to put Christ back in Christmas, then live as he lived.  Last year it was estimated that Americans spent 600 billion dollars on Christmas gifts, to end hunger in the world it is estimated to cost 70 billion dollars (http://hungermath.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/how-much-would-it-cost-to-end-world-hunger/).  Tell me how would Christ, who fed the multitudes with two fish and five loaves of bread prefer we spend our money?

If you really want to put Christ back in Christmas clothe the naked; send someone in prison a Christmas card and continue to write to them throughout the year; help to provide every human being access to clean water; visit the sick…If you want to put Christ back into Christmas welcome the undocumented stranger…

Yes, it’s much easier to get riled up about nativity scenes and people who say “Happy Holidays” than it is to change our lives and really put Christ back in Christmas.

But what if we tried? What if we fought the war on Christmas by spending less money on gifts and gave alternative gifts to causes that change people’s lives?  What if we fought the war on Christmas by spending less time at the mall and more time with family, friends and worshipping God at church?  What if fought the war on Christmas by greeting people with Happy Holidays mindful of the fact that other people of faith have major religious celebrations this time of year also?  What if we cared less about displaying nativity scenes and worried more about practicing hospitality in our homes?  What if?

Angela Maddalone is the Pastor at the Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades, NY.

 

 

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