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.