A couple years I wrote a guest article over at Brandon’s site brandonkelley.org delivering some perspective on this idea that there is a war on Christmas. What follows today is an adapted and revised version for this space that I hope can be beneficial for you as a church leader as I am sure this issue will come up in your congregation many times over the next month and a half or so.
I really saw the importance of this issue when the whole Starbucks Red Cup thing blew up in the last few weeks. I mean are we serious? People really care what Starbucks puts on their cups at Christmas time? Well simply put, we should not care.
If you turn on Fox News this time of year, specifically Bill O’Reilly’s O’Reilly Factor you will see that people are into declaring that there is a War on Christmas. This comes from stories such as schools not allowing Christmas parties, cities that have had manger scenes for 100 years getting sued and losing and on and on. (Google “War on Christmas”, watch the O’Reilly Factor, or hit up Mike Huckabee’s Facebook page for further reference)
These are legitimate stories and things that we can be concerned with, but I want to be 100% clear when I say there is no “centralized” War on Christmas. We as Americans can celebrate whatever we want, Jews celebrate Hanukkah and people can choose to celebrate or not celebrate this time of year. Just because there is less of a tolerance of Christmas being in the public sphere does not mean us Christians are being persecuted.
Just because the clerk at Wal-Mart wishes you a “Happy Holidays” does not mean you have to retort convincingly “Merry Christmas”. You can certainly say “Merry Christmas” but how do you know the person is even celebrating Christmas? It’s inherently arrogant to say that “Well I live in America, everybody should celebrate Christmas, and if they don’t they are out to get Christianity” I don’t understand where this line of thinking comes from. Why do Christians in America feel it is required to be wished “Merry Christmas”?
In the spirit of what Christmas represents I encourage my fellow Christians to adopt an attitude of love and peace. Yeah, Christmas is now a Christian holiday, but it is also a secular holiday. It is not blasphemous to not celebrate Christmas, it is not persecution for the federal/state/local government to not promote Christmas. I get that American Christians feel a little claustrophobic as some liberties and practices that we have taken for granted get threatened but it is not our job to look like morons screaming “WAR ON CHRISTMAS” from September to January every year.
Even if it gets to the point where Christianity is a clear minority to secularism or humanism or whatever that still does not mean that we can legitimately gripe about a “War on Christmas” We will still be able to celebrate Christmas and worship how we like. This goes to a deeper issue about persecution, a little push back against the presence of Christmas in the public sphere does not even compare to what Christians are currently undergoing in Egypt, just Google “Christians in Egypt” if you don’t believe me.
So I would encourage you to reflect on how Jesus would have reacted to a “War on Christmas” every time you feel your precious American Christmas being threatened. What would he say or do?