Ah, it’s that time of year again, that MOST WONDERFUL TIME when everyone gets all riled up about the “War on Christmas!” and starts complaining about how we can no longer celebrate that holy time of year when people go into debt to buy themselves and their loved ones a bunch of crap they don’t need.
I really can’t believe we’re still dealing with this and I really can’t believe it’s still a problem for some people and I really, REALLY can’t believe that some people still insist that being greeted with a “Happy Holidays” equates religious persecution.
I know this is really small and juvenile of me (but I have never, not ever, claimed to be either “nice” or “mature” as much as I may aspire to be both) but this whole “War on Christmas” thing makes me want to be aggressively “Happy Holiday’s-ish.” I intentionally no longer buy “Merry Christmas” cards because now I feel like I have something to prove. Honestly, if there is a “War on Christmas,” Christians aren’t making it any better by whining about it. They’re making some of us more determined than ever to be more vague around the holidays. I have a great desire to tell someone I’m Jewish or Wiccan or an atheist the next time they tell me “Merry Christmas” but I’m honestly too chicken to do that so I will just gripe about it on my blog because I’m a pathetic, passive-aggressive wimp.
One of my big problems with people complaining about “not being able to say Merry Christmas” is that, guess what? YOU CAN STILL SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS all the damn time if you want! There is no law against saying Merry Christmas. No one will arrest you for saying Merry Christmas. So if you want to say Merry Christmas?? GO RIGHT AHEAD! Say it to your hearts content. Say it to every man, woman, child and pet that you meet. Celebrate the hell out of Christmas because in America, that is entirely your right to do so!! But guess what? It is also entirely the right of someone else or a business to NOT say Merry Christmas. To say “Happy Hanukkah” or whatever or even NOT acknowledge the holiday season at all. That is the beauty of being an American. I overheard someone say “That’s why we need to elect Donald Trump, he’ll let us say Merry Christmas again!” Because what, Obama has legislated the Christmas Police to stop you from saying and/or celebrating the merriness of this lovely capitalist holiday? Because Trump is going to legislate that you and everyone else and every business HAS to wish everyone a Merry Christmas? It’s totally absurd. Say it, don’t say it, but quit your whining about it! No one is stopping you!
Secondly…Christians and others love to claim that they are being “persecuted” because of this “War on Christmas” fallacy. ANYONE who has ANY knowledge about ANYTHING outside of their own living rooms has to know, HAS to know that this is not persecution!! Persecution is real and there are people being persecuted every day all around the world: Christians yes, are being persecuted. But so are Muslims and Jews and other religions. So are people who support women’s equality. So are people who choose to vote against the party in power in certain countries. And this persecution involves death and torture. It involves things like your home being burned down with you and your family inside it. Being imprisoned. Being burned with acid or stoned. Being wished a “Happy Holidays” isn’t persecution, it’s someone being thoughtful, kind and friendly; you should try it. So unless someone is sticking a crochet hook in your privates when you say Merry Christmas (yes, this is a thing. Read “The Fear” by Peter Godwin. Read ANYTHING that expands your world view for heaven’s sake) then you need to zip your pie hole.
Finally, it really makes me grind my teeth that people are getting so riled up about this because honestly, I think if Jesus is real and if he is watching/looking down on us or whatever, then he is just pulling his hair out in frustration because if this is all we’re getting out of Jesus’ ‘birthday’ (which is a joke, really), if the way America does Christmas is THAT important to us? Then we have 100% missed the point of his entire existence. Totally and completely. Look, I love Christmas. I love the decorations and the songs and the idea of family and the feeling that the season gives me. But Christmas is not Jesus, not anymore. Going to church on Christmas doesn’t make Christmas about Jesus. If you and your family make Jesus the focus, then that’s awesome. But the way we do Christmas is so anti-Jesus in so many ways, that it is just insane how agitated and furious Christians get about people wanting to be more inclusive with a “Happy Holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas.” You know what would make Christmas really meaningful?? Share with the poor. Care about immigrants. Care about someone lonely and alone at the holidays. Don’t buy stuff for yourself that you don’t need. Because, even though I’m not sure how I view the Bible, I’m pretty damn sure that all THAT was the focus of Jesus, the least of these, the left outs, the people on the fringes. I would bet all my money that if Jesus were to say anything at all this time of they year it would be “Love your neighbor as yourself” and he would give you the stink-eye if you tried to wish him Merry Christmas.
Can we stop talking about this now? Please? And actually go out and do something constructive? Now that would be a holiday worth celebrating.
I just plugged in the Christmas tree…not too many days left for that, as we will probably take it down this weekend. It’s really hard to believe that Christmas wasn’t even a week ago, it feels like months already. I was thinking this year that I don’t really love Christmas day at all…I’m much more partial to the Christmas season as a whole, but Christmas day feels kind of like a let down because it’s all over, all that build up and then…done.
It got me to thinking about just what I love about the season, and I think it’s the magic and the mystery of it all. The lights, the anticipation, the excitement of gifts to give, the music. As a Christian, the birth of Jesus is a central focus during this time of year, and even though my faith has changed dramatically, I can say honestly that during the Christmas season is when Jesus feels the most real to me. The story of the Nativity is so odd. Such a strange idea, that God would come to earth as a baby. But there’s such an other-worldly, magical quality to the Nativity story…the carols, even, in their minor keys, using archaic, slightly incomprehensible language. It’s like the one time of the year that we acknowledge that, yeah, this whole Jesus the Messiah born in a Manger thing is kind of weird sounding, but that we’re all ok with that. Even people who don’t claim to follow him will be caught singing about Jesus come to save the world…it trips me out to see some of the Christmas music put out by random secular artists. Singing about our sin and savior when you’re pretty sure they’re just looking to sell some records, not worship any one god in particular.
I grew up Catholic and I have to say I think they did a way better job of capturing the magic of the season. Those midnight masses, with the live Nativity at the front of the church. All the candles and the incense. You’re sleepy and tired and everything seems kind of dream-like. Evangelical church services are pretty cut and dry, even at Christmas. The advent wreath is kind of an afterthought. The church we attend on occasion does a nice finale where we all sing Silent Night with candles and it’s beautiful but otherwise there’s not much magic there. I was thinking this week about how we used to actually (sometimes) go to church on Christmas…which seems like a foreign concept anymore. I’m not saying I want to go to church on Christmas morning, but I wonder if maybe it shouldn’t be an option more than it is?? I don’t know.
I think most people want magic and mystery in our lives…that’s why Harry Potter and Narnia and Tolkein and stories like that capture our imagination. We want something to believe in that is extraordinary, beyond what we can see. I think Christmas could capture that for Christians…most of the time Christians have killed the magic and mystery of the faith. Everything’s been boiled down to a list of rules, a political ideology, a “Merry Christmas” and not a “Happy Holidays”, a who’s in and who’s out, us against them, we have the truth and you don’t, believe this or go to hell death cycle that apparently some people get off on but not me. And I’m guessing not a lot of people, if anyone’s really listening to people out there.
I was driving to the airport Christmas night, listening to my Christmas CD…the day was over, the season mostly over…but the stars were twinkling and I could almost see that little stable, with angels and shepherds and the magi somewhere far away noticing an unusual astronomical event…I could still feel the magic. I’m hoping that this year I can let that feeling, that mystery, be my guide in my faith and I can ignore all the people out there who want to stomp all that out in the name of some cold, practical faith.
Peace on earth…goodwill to men.