Friends, I give you exhibit A, the Say Merry Christmas video.
I expect this video, along with the song and website it is related to, is probably not a big deal, and it shouldn’t amount to much. But, it does offer a specific example of a sentiment that I think we really need to think more about.
Let me begin by saying that I have friends that think this video is to be celebrated, along with the sentiment it promotes. It is through one such friend that this video came to my attention. I do not wish to offend. If you are among my deeply sincere friends who rally around this sort of thing, chances are we’ve already had a discussion along these lines at some point.
I do not question the sincerity of the folks who are driving this, or those who would support it. My assumption is that they are serious about following Jesus and care deeply about how our faith intersects with society. In the case of those friends I am thinking of, I know that you care deeply about these things.
But, folks, we need to talk.
As best as I can tell, this video is calling for a “Christian boycott” of any store that does not overtly promote the specific verbiage of our faith at Christmas. In other words, regardless of the personal beliefs of the store owners and/or employees, we would hope to coerce them to express, even if insincerely, a sentiment rooted firmly in our sincere faith in Christ. Perhaps I am missing something, but this seems to be the aim.
Furthermore, I understand this to be rooted in the broad idea of counteracting the so-called “war on Christmas” being waged by “the secularists.”
If I’m wrong on this, and somehow missing the point, please help me. Or, if you think I’ve got it right, but you want to try to warm me to the validity of these sentiments, I am listening.
But, this sort of thing raises many questions for me. Here are just a few…
1. How does this sentiment and initiative relate to the gospel?
2. How does it relate to our role as followers of Jesus in our communities?
3. Who is this initiative for? Or, to put it another way, who benefits from any results that might come from this boycott?
4. What is this trying to achieve? I understand the idea of more businesses saying “Merry Christmas,” but on a deeper level, to what end?
Personally, I have yet to have any sense that my deep devotion to Christ, or the free expression of my faith, has in any way been hampered or discouraged related to whether the check-out dude at Barnes and Noble said “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
That is not to say that I don’t notice when someone in that context says, “Merry Christmas!” I appreciate it when they do. And given our cultural context, when that happens, I assume they really mean it. And, I appreciate that. Isn’t that the way it should be? I don’t expect a non-believer to say “God with you,” or wish me the peace of Christ when I leave their store at any time of year. That would be strange indeed. Perhaps something of a sacrilege.
Furthermore, as far as establishments (and there are some) that seem to have made a very conscious decision to avoid any overtly Christian tone in their holiday verbiage, I can’t come up with any Christian ethic that would justify my choosing to avoid their store for that reason. If anything, it seems to me like all the more reason to get in there!
Perhaps this is because the meaning of Christmas, for me, is so deep and beautiful. It is so rich to me that even calling it “Jesus’ birthday” is to subtly cheapen it. First of all, December 25th was almost certainly not when our Christ was born.
And that’s OK.
Christmas is not just the celebration of a birth as a date on a calendar. Rather it is the recognition of the mystery of incarnation. It is the story of God with us. It is the profound mystery that God became man, and lived (and lives) among us.
It is God coming into a world of darkness with the piercing light of true love. He didn’t just send a messenger, no, He actually came into this world. It is the story of love and redemption.
And, so I guess I’m inclined to go on into that store. And, I’ll probably say, “Merry Christmas!” And, when I do, it will not be to make some political point, or establish some little personal beachhead of Christendom… “Merry Christmas! In your face, sucker!”
No, I will say it to gently affirm the mystery of the ages to those who may need to hear it the most.
God help us when our most cherished and winsome expressions of faith become weapons for political bullying, masquerading as… I’m not even sure what. I honestly can’t think of a justification.
I know we meant well, but it’s time to step back and take a deep breath.
Maybe we are the ones who need to remember what Christmas is really all about.
May it be so.