This & That

Joy to the World

I’m interrupting my “Look Back” series of posts for something that’s been on my heart for quite some time and brought to the forefront of my thinking recently by a Time magazine article, “Church Group Attacks Christmas Commercialism,” which reports on a worldwide movement of Christians who are foregoing the American version of Christmas and opting instead to see the needs around them, if even across the world.

There are two notions I’d like to challenge, and both are mentioned in the Time article.

First, we as believers in the Christ of Christmas should not join “Bill O’Reilly and other defenders of Christmas bemoaning the prevalence of the greeting ‘Happy Holidays,’ as opposed to ‘Merry Christmas.’” One of the usual suspects in the evangelical community’s “war” against the media and just about anything else, Focus on the Family is continuing its “Stand on Christmas campaign to highlight the offenses of Christmas-denying retailers.” Just a quick glance at their website is enough to turn my stomach. A ranking system for how “Christmas-friendly” retailers are?! There you can submit your ratings as well as any comments. One such submission commented on Cabela’s: “We visited the East Hartford, CT store today. Lots of evidence of CHRISTMAS!” What is this evidence, I wonder. People’s needs being met? Hard hearts being softened by the gospel? Brothers reconciling with one another? Families making room at their Christmas table for strangers?

In the Time article, the writer stated:

A popular rallying cry of the foot soldiers in the war on Christmas is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Often, however, it seems that being able to score a half-price Nintendo DSi and a “Merry Christmas” from the checkout clerk is the real prize. The Religious Right has spent decades casting secular culture as the enemy. And yet instead of critiquing the values of the consumer marketplace, many conservative Christians have embraced it as the battleground they seek to reclaim.

Oh! Such a reprimand from the world to the church. (Now, the writer Amy Sullivan may be a believer. If so, kudos to her for bringing this to light. If not, then even more shame on us!)

If you need your spiritual spankings to come from a Christian, then here’s what a pastor offered:

But to a growing group of Christians, the focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas is the greatest threat to one of Christianity’s holiest days. “It’s the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that ‘If I don’t spend enough money, someone will think I don’t love them,’” says Portland, Ore., pastor Rick McKinley. “Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That’s just ridiculous.”

No, we shouldn’t expect corporate America to tell our story. Instead of getting uptight and angry that in saying “Happy Holidays,” a dark world doesn’t offer us light, we should remove the basket with which we’ve covered our light. Honestly, saying “Merry Christmas” doesn’t make it one. Let’s take some time—but hurry! because we’re almost out of time—and consider what would make it a merry Christmas for someone else.

On to the other thought … In Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, something really struck me in the beginning of his chapter on greed. Before delving into the seductive power of money, he wrote:

Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it. Therefore we should all begin with a working hypothesis that “this could easily be a problem for me.” If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it is not a problem for them.

The Advent Conspiracy calls Christians everywhere to renounce the commercialistic approach to Christmas so widespread in the U.S., not by eliminating Christmas trees and Santa from our celebrations but by encouraging generosity. Check out their website and the video.

A couple weeks ago we sat our girls down (Micah wouldn’t have understood) and discussed our plan for Christmas this year. We told them that we have been the beneficiaries of so much grace and generosity over the past year in particular, and we’re compelled ourselves to offer what we can. We informed them we’re reducing our gift budget—the gifts we give ourselves—and directing more of our resources to those who have significant needs. They weren’t overly receptive at first, but then their excitement swelled when we thumbed through World Vision’s Christmas catalog and picked out a few items we could give toward, including some chickens and ducks for families in remote villages. They don’t know it yet, but we’ll share with them on Christmas Day that we’ve also pledged to support a young Guatemalan girl. Now, these are meager attempts to rid ourselves of greed and move toward generosity, so we intend (and they’re excited) to do more next year. Jacque wants to buy a donkey for a family, and Lindsay wants to stock a farm with animals. Oh, they’re getting it!

And so am I.

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