Sunday, December 20, 2009

how not to put Christ into christmas

During this season evangelical Christians in America can frequently be heard addressing what they perceive to be a violation of their civil liberties. Many Christians get upset because they have been instructed that it is no longer acceptable to say "Merry Christmas" in public. Because of this perceived threat, evangelical Christians mount a "counter-offensive". And, in true American fashion, winning a "counter-offensive" often amounts to bigger marketing campaigns (which translates into the proliferation of new merchandising ventures).

In America, if you want to win a war there are always at least two ways to do it. One, send more troops. And two, make (and/or buy) more stuff so that you can be the biggest group with the loudest message. The best way to win the war is if the "stuff" that's made contains a message propagating the ideology of one's side.

Don't get me wrong: it may be that evangelical Christians in America sincerely hope to preserve the truly ancient and original Spirit of Christmas. The fact is: there would be no Christmas today if the Son of God had not been born.

So, when evangelical Christians perceive that this "true Spirit" is under threat, they endeavor to "put Christ back into Christmas" (that's how they put it).

At this point I'd like to say: You can't put Christ back into Christmas by making more "clever" merchandise.

You can't put Christ back into Christmas by making or buying a Christmas tree that has a cross for its trunk:

You can't put Christ back into Christmas with a tshirt

even if the tshirt is sleeveless

or intended to be worn by a baby (perhaps it is surmised that this tactic will work because Jesus was, after all, a baby)

You can't put Christ back into Christmas with a coffee mug

or a light display "proving" that Santa bows to Jesus

You can't put Christ back into Christmas with a license plate holder

or even a large bumper sticker that goes RIGHT next to your brake lights to make sure people see what you want them to know and believe

You can't put Christ back into Christmas with a button campaign

or by making a cushion that goes on your couch

You can't put Christ back into Christmas by sponsoring a billboard

And Jesus does not become more present in your Christmas if you have a stocking placed over your fireplace "just for him."

Jesus was the invisible one. The child of no consequence. He was born among animals and laid in a feed trough. He was visited first by shepherds, the garbage collectors of the ancient world.

The birth of Jesus reminds us that God did not take a stand for what was rightfully his; it reminds us that God laid down his rights to woo back his children with love.

If you want to "put Christ back into Christmas", give up your "rights". If you want to "put Christ back into Christmas" don't spend your money on a "Christian" tree or a tshirt or a coffee mug; spend it on someone invisible-someone whose name you probably don't even know yet (someone who has become your enemy not because of active war, but rather through indifference, apathy and ignorance). If you want to "keep Christ in Christmas" get to know a new name--the name of the face you've walked past on your street, in your city, at your school or place of work time and time again without so much as nodding hello to them or allowing your eye to acknowledge their dignified and sacred presence.

If you want to "put Christ back into Christmas" befriend your own imperfection. Become acquainted with what it means to be forgiven and grant forgiveness.

If you want to "put Christ back into Christmas" do what God did in Jesus: step outside of yourself to join in solidarity with those who are unlike you.

If you want to "put Christ back into Christmas" refuse to succumb to the temptation to coerce others to believe the same way you do. You can't put Christ back into Christmas with a slogan. Neither can you accomplish this with air-tight apologetics, for the person who truly walks in the footsteps of Jesus has but one apologetic--love, just love, plain and simple.

The best way you can "put Christ back into Christmas" is to love God by learning to love and accept others the way God loves and accepts you: unconditionally. Don't "yes, but" this unconditional acceptance. As soon as you do, you make it conditional. Learn to say "yes" to the image of God in others, the image that is actually there, not the image you wish to form them into.

You can't keep Christ in Christmas by shouting louder; you can only do it by loving better.

When you live this way, believe me: Christ will be in your Christmas--whether others know it or not.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Well stated - Christmas is about God's love! If we have responded to his love, it should be the best gift we can give to others, so they have the opportunity to also receive His gift of love. Thanks for the challenge of getting back to the basics.