And so this is Christmas, for weak and for strong,
For rich and for poor ones, the road is so long.
And so happy Christmas, for black and for white,
For yellow and red ones, let's stop all the fight.
A very Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.
Let's hope it's a good one,
Without any fear.
John Lennon penned these words a few years back and I hear them a couple of times during Advent. As I understand it this was written as an anti-war song.
This year, I don't know why, but all the stuff I've been hearing about "the war on Christmas" has been coming to me in neon lights. At first I just ignored it. And then I started hearing about it on the radio in the car, on the Daily Show, and from more and more people I know around town. Some think it's ridiculous, and some seem to think it's deadly serious. So I got to thinking -- what do I think "the war on Christmas" is about? So here's my best shot.
Nothing. Or more precisely - everything.
One of the things that is weird about this for me is that I have friends who are absolutely convinced there is a war on Christmas. And while I believe there is one, too -- it is a completely different one than they talk about.
I keep thinking that this is reminiscent of a battle recorded in the Gospels that I like to call "The War on Sabbath." Who was the leader in the war on the sabbath? Well -- the good religious folk thought that it was Jesus. You see, Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. And when he was confronted by the religious authorities he asked them -- "Were people created for the Sabbath or the Sabbath for people?"
I think that it drove Jesus nuts (not clinically so) that folks made religion into something that could overlook a brother or sister who was hurting -- simply because it was "against the rules." I think that was Jesus' problem with what religions become. Religions become boxes, prisons if you will, where we hold one another hostage to the whims and dictates of those who have gone before. And while those who have gone before may have been guided by the Holy Spirit - they were also human beings who made mistakes (see Galileo, Copernicus, The Crusades, etc...).
But I do think that there is a very real War on Christmas. When you think that Christmas itself is this reminder of God's incarnation in the world - God putting up a tent with us, well then - we can see where the threats to that incarnation are present can't we? They are present whenever we have people who are homeless languishing on our streets, while we have empty beds in our homes. That's certainly a front in the war on Christmas (especially in celebrating a Christ who was born in a manger -- today, as my friend Chad told me it would probably be in a grocery cart down at Wheeler Mission). The war on Christmas is happening in Darfur, Sudan where children are watching their parents being raped and killed; where brothers and sisters are tortured in front of one another or their parents are; it kind of embarrassing to claim that someone saying "happy holidays" to you pisses you off, after that isn't it?
How about the War on Christmas that is happening when a city builds a new stadium for a professional football team full of multi-millionaires (not to mention sky boxes for multi-millionaires who don't play), but can't be convinced to invest in the lives of low-income people whose gifts and energies and dreams are being wasted simply because someone has to sell $4.50 hot dogs for $5.25 an hour. Why do we know that is part of the War on Christmas? Because we know how to read Matthew 25.31-46.
How about the War on Christmas that happens when in the midst of war we bomb civilian areas "because we have to" -- and little children are considered "collateral damage" by leaders who call themselves Christian. Jesus must weep. Weep.
How about the War on Christmas that happens when we lock up an extremely high percentage of our population and keep forgetting that one of the signs of God's realm that Jesus announced at the beginning of his ministry was "freedom for the captives." Churches and other faith communities do plenty of work to "counsel the prisoner" when he or she gets out of prison -- but ask them to "set the prisoner free" and they look at you like you are crazy.
How about the War on Christmas that happens when people have to hide their love for one another, the simple act of walking hand in hand downtown as one celebrates an anniversary, or the act of dancing together at any party -- because people might be offended -- or worse, respond violently. Yeah, Jesus would be real happy about that celebration of his birthday.
Yes, Virginia there is a War on Christmas. Unfortunately, it is being waged in the words said over a cash register and not in the wounded places of our communities and world.