Sunday, November 23, 2008

The War on Christmas?

It happens every year around this time. You hear it from preachers, people on the radio, and even from talking heads on cable news stations. Every year right around this time they start talking about the "War on Christmas". Who's waging this war, you may ask? Apparently the "War on Christmas" is waged by pagan greeters at WalMart who dare to say "Happy Holidays", heathen municipalities who remove nativity scenes from city halls, and anyone who dares to write "Xmas" instead of "Christmas". 

There may well be a war on Christmas, but I highly doubt that any of these people are combatants. WalMart greeters and local governments are just doing their best to be inclusive of other religious traditions, and I for one am not threatened by the lack of a nativity scene outside the local courthouse. As for "Xmas", X is the Greek letter "chi", which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. So "X" is kind of like saying "JC" for Jesus Christ. Scary.

Like I said, there may well be a war on Christmas, but like any other serious threat to the Christian faith, it doesn't come from outsiders. Our own worst enemy is ourselves. We are commemorating the day when Jesus was born into poor, humble circumstances, and at the same time we go further and further into debt to buy a bunch of junk nobody needs anyway. We remember the night that the holy family could find no room at the inn, but the most we'll do for someone without a home is toss some change in the Salvation Army bucket (that's a good start, though). We recall the violent purge by a jealous King Herod that forced the holy family to flee to Egypt and live as refugees, but we ignore the foreigners within our own borders just because they might not have all the right documents. If anyone is destroying Christmas, it's us.

This doesn't have to be the case, though. We can still enjoy the decorations and the parties, and yes, even the gifts and still keep Jesus first. A number of churches are participating in a movement called The Advent Conspiracy that focuses on substituting compassion for consumption. The idea is simple: we can worship Christ more fully during this season by spending less and giving more to those who really need it. 

Imagine how much good we could do if we decreased the amount we spend on presents by 10% and used that to help dig a well in a village in the desert or provided mosquito nets for people who might otherwise die of malaria. The Advent Conspiracy is a way for us to move beyond feeling even more guilt to actually doing something to spread God's grace in the world.

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