Christmas Wars, Begone! - Word&Way

Christmas Wars, Begone!

I began listening to Christmas music in October. Don’t judge me. The season goes fast and I love the carols of our faith.

Doyle SagerDoyle SagerAnd that leads me to make a plea. Please, please, please, could we be done, forever, with Christmas Wars? If I were God for a day, I would fine every preacher who complains that “they” have taken Christ out of Christmas. The penalty? Either no watching football on TV for two weeks or eight consecutive hours of listening to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” whichever is the greater punishment.

Let’s stop looking for a fight where none exists. I’m frankly too busy and too filled with the season’s joy to worry about whether a store clerk tells me “Happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” There are so many legitimate justice issues in our world, why fabricate a culture war where none exists?

The phrase “happy holidays” is not secular or devoid of the spiritual. The word “holiday” is a blend of the phrase “holy day.” So when someone offers, “Happy Holidays,” stop grousing. Consider this analogy: The most well-known and oft-sung evangelical hymn is “Amazing Grace,” but the verses included in The Baptist Hymnal (1991) do not mention Jesus by name, nor do they reference his birth, life, death or resurrection. Yet, when we sing it, no one claims we have taken Christ out of worship.

As people of the Way, why can’t we simply be grateful for all the free press our Savior gets during this season? I have no way of measuring, but I’m pretty sure the Christmas story is better known than the narratives related to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. The last time I checked, it’s the church’s job — not the job of Macy’s, the public school or the TV reporter — to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. What kind of evangelical laziness asks culture to do its work?

Taking our cue from God’s self-emptying love at the manger, maybe followers of Jesus should stop making everything about us. Why do we insist that all holiday music and season’s greetings be done our way? Isn’t following Jesus about laying aside our rights and privileges instead of asserting them? Read Philippians 2:5-11, slowly and carefully. As Tim Keller has pointed out, our witness for Christ is sometimes tarnished because we forget that we share a common membership in the human family. I’m thinking of writing a new Christmas song, entitled, “It’s Not About Us, Fa-la-la-la-la-la, la, la, la.” Let’s don’t spoil the season by insisting on our rights; let’s enhance the season by serving.

Please. Let’s stop using the word “persecution” for every cultural discomfort we experience. News flash: There are people on this earth who are actually suffering for their faith. At a recent Baptist World Alliance meeting, I heard the testimony of a Baptist pastor in another (nameless) country. Each Monday, he is hauled in by the secret police and “interrogated.” Until your troubles rise to this man’s level, spare us the persecution whining.

I can’t help but wonder to what extent this kerfuffle over “taking Christ out of Christmas” is a diversionary tactic, keeping us from the real and difficult work of following Jesus during his birthday season. That is, if we spend our energy protesting that the local school calls its program “Winter Concert,” we don’t have to deal with the homeless, hungry, oppressed and hopeless in our community. Why should we take the time to confront the evils of war, human trafficking, payday loans or racial hatred? After all, we’re doing our part. We posted “Jesus is the reason for the season” on our Facebook wall. What more could God expect of us?

Ironic, isn’t it? We struggle with how to be in but not of the world (being incarnational) during the very season in which we celebrate God becoming flesh. Maybe if we started living like Jesus and loving like Jesus, the world would notice that we (not they) have put Christ back in Christmas.

Doyle Sager is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.