A Holiday Rant

Every year when the holidays roll around, Christians all over the place start complaining about the “War on Christmas.” There are country songs about Jesus being “the reason for the season;” there are Facebook groups dedicated to “keeping Christ in Christmas.” There are buttons and bumper stickers, email petitions and concerned women, right-wing radio hosts and Bible-thumping preachers – and all of it makes me furious.

The first adversary in the “War on Christmas” is generally some school somewhere that decides to have a “winter program” instead of a Christmas pageant. This is, frankly, a stupid thing to be upset about. So what if some public school – a government-owned factory for producing unthinking, unquestioning automatons – decides not to celebrate Christmas? We ought to be angry when schools do have Christmas programs, not when they don’t. We ought to be furious that the public school system has co-opted one of our holiest days, but instead we go along with it so the kids get a week off school at a time that’s convenient to us.

The second offender is the retailer who decides to use the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas.” Such retailers are usually threatened with a boycott if they persist in being inanely PC. Again, why aren’t we angry when giant corporations hijack Christmas to make tons of money? We ought to boycott when a business uses the birth of our Saviour as a marketing tool; instead we boycott when they don’t. That’s not merely stupid, it’s idolatrous. We’re whoring ourselves to Mammon in the name of Jesus.

That’s the reason we fight this imaginary “War on Christmas” every year – to hide the fact that we’ve turned the Incarnation into an orgy of conspicuous consumption. We’re only fooling ourselves.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I’m not against giving gifts at Christmas – giving ought to be a year-round part of the Christian life, but it’s especially appropriate as a way to celebrate God’s giving himself to us. But most of the gifts that are given at Christmas are worthless and unnecessary. Video games? Expensive electronics? Fruit cakes? What about gift cards – they’re like free passes to a whorehouse in our consumption-addicted culture.

Do you want people to know that Jesus is the reason for the season? Then act like it. Feed the hungry; clothe the naked; tend to the sick. Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Skip the sales, and visit a shut-in, or write to someone in prison. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Give the people you love gifts, but don’t give them some mass-produced piece of trash; give them something that shows that you love them, something worth giving. And give gifts to people you’ll never meet; give for the joy of giving. And while you’re at it, throw away the stupid buttons, peel the bumper sticker off your car, leave the Facebook group, and delete every forwarded email that lands in your inbox. Celebrate Christmas like St. Nicholas – hoping that nobody would notice he was doing it.

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