Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fighting on the Wrong Side of the Christmas War



I think the conservative church is missing the point.

Everybody is talking about whether we should be hearing "merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" coming from our store clerks and sales persons mouths this Christmas season. Right wing Christian groups are on every news show out there telling us we should boycott Target and just about every other retailer who says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Of course Walmart officially says, Merry Christmas, so they're OK, these Christian groups are actually telling people to shop at Walmart! They're angry because Christmas is becoming a secular holiday, but they're missing the point.

The holiday celebrated by most Americans on December 25 is not Christmas, and we should not call it Christmas. The holiday on Dec. 25th has become a day for celebrating the American lifestyle, it's a celebration of capitalism and the power of spending and making money. The gift giving of Dec. 25th has gone overboard. I don't think we should fight to force stores to say Merry Christmas, by doing that we're saying that Christmas is about buying tons of stuff from powerful corporations. I would be happy to create a new American winter holiday that's all about buying things for our friends and family, we'll call it something else, not Christmas. Gift giving its self is not wrong, but it's wrong that Christmas has been given to the powerful corporations of our world as their holiday.


Christmas is about a baby who was born in a stable to an unwed teenage girl. Its about the most powerful God becoming the least powerful of all creatures, a baby, to the least powerful of all people, a young girl in the first century. Christmas is about the incarnation of God, the fact that God became human so that all creation could be redeemed. But that's not what most Americans celebrate. A few weeks ago in worship BJ argued that Christmas is one time of year when the church should be counter-cultural. I think he's right. We need to look and act completely different from the culture around us that has usurped Christmas. The conservative church is not realizing they are arguing that we should give Christmas to the culture, let Walmart tell us what Christmas is about! We no longer live in a Christian culture, so lets accept that and be subversive voices calling people to change. Christmas can then be a time of recognizing that Jesus is the one who holds the power of this creation through his incarnation. The power of Jesus can subvert Christmas back to what it should be, a time of liberating the oppressed, caring for the sick, giving to the poor, and doing our best to redeem creation - not consume it.

Sure I like to give and get gifts. But now that that's all Christmas is about for most poeple the church needs to take a stand away from consumerism to show the real meaning.

6 comments:

Rodger Sellers said...

Yea John... ain't it true? I just redefined the term "Grinch" last night in worship -- along with the appropriate film clips -- to be a compliment.

Almost seems like some perverse superstition, doens't it? Incant the magic words "Merry Christmas" and all of a sudden this orgy of narcissism and materialism is OK?

I'm all for trying to figure out when Augustus ordered the census (maybe after the harvest was in?) and moving our Celebration of Nativity to then. Then we could let the shoppers have Winter Solstice and go at it on their own!

RPS

Brian said...

"The conservative church is not realizing they are arguing that we should give Christmas to the culture, let Walmart tell us what Christmas is about! We no longer live in a Christian culture, so lets accept that and be subversive voices calling people to change."

I agree with you in full John, but your statement here gets the heart of the issue. Many believe that 1) We still live in a Christian culture and signs such as not saying Merry Christmas merely show that we are slipping away from what was so good in the past or 2) The way to change culture is through power, to demand certain rights. Until these attitudes change this sort of stuff will continue.

alyssa said...

Walmart is where all the good Christians hang out. Right??

Stewart said...

Well-said, and the discussion is on-target. Recognition of the shift in our culture is essential if the Church in 2005 is going to find its way to offer a message of hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the over-possessed.

John said...

I was reminded today that mary was married when Jesus was born, but not when he was concieved. Oops.

Terry L. Mann said...

Still good words John!!