Peace on Earth?

I am not a fan of the holiday season.

Oh, I love getting together with the family at Thanksgiving, and Christmas is full of such beauty and meaning, but the season has always been problematic for me.  And now that ‘the holiday season’ has been pushed back far enough to have jack-o-lanterns appearing in August, that’s at least four months of holidaying.  It stresses me out.

I always feel like a failure this time of year, especially around Christmas.  Some years, literally the only thing that brought me any joy was making tins and tins (and more tins) of truffles and other chocolate goodies for the family, and hearing the ‘Mmmmm’ when they open them and sample something before we sit down to eat together.  I do it every year because while I’m making them, I’m thinking about my family, and how grateful I am to have them.  It’s therapeutic, too.  Also, I dip things in chocolate better than anyone I know.  Just sayin’.

But it isn’t just the bumped-up early start to the holidays that gets to me.  It’s all the distractions that I can’t quite filter out.  It seems that every year we have to have the obligatory argument about whether Black Friday sales are a good thing or a bad thing, whether people should be celebrating the season of giving by climbing over each other to fight over the only 3 sale televisions in stock, or whatever the hot item is.  And as my own family is just getting by in the suburbs on one income, it’s hard not to feel inadequate when walking into a party in the home of that one family where Christmas isn’t complete without a house (and trees) covered in lights on the outside, and four trees (with different colors and themes, of course) strewn about the inside.

(Can trees be strewn?  Also, I feel accomplished if I can just unwrinkle the ribbons on my sole wreath before slapping it on the front door.  And I flat refuse to decorate a tree any longer, delegating that to the Little Critter and The Mister while I cower in another room out of the way.)

I am not up to the holidays as we know them now.

But the worst, the absolute worst to me, is the politicization of everything Christmas.

  • A store has a ‘Holiday Sale’ going on?  Protest!
  • Some flier has ‘Holiday Trees’ for sale?  Boycott!
  • Clerks are trained to say ‘Happy Holidays!’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’? War!

People got politics in my Christmas.  And I’m exhausted by it.  The idea that there’s a War on Christmas isn’t entirely without merit, but this hypersensitivity is driving me crazy.  And I can’t escape it.  I don’t watch television, so I miss much of the advertising that goes around.  But people take these battles over the holidays right into my social media feed.  It finds ME.  This week alone I’ve had to hear about Starbucks cups and Santa glaciers, AND IT ISN’T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET.

And you know what else?  All this fuss runs entirely counter to my reading of ‘Peace on Earth, Goodwill To All Men.’

Have you ever really thought about that phrase?  Peace on Earth is a function of a lot of things, from the geopolitical landscape to the atmosphere on the street where you live.  I can’t do much about the situation on the global level, but I can so something where I am: I can promote peace.  I can promote peace by choosing carefully when it’s time to go to war, and when I might be able to achieve my preferences another way.  I can promote peace by being peaceable, by not flying into a rage at a perceived slight without investigating further.

And Goodwill is a concept lost on so many people who think of it as merely a charity brand name, rather than a thing we should strive for.  Goodwill is the Golden Rule all over: we ought to operate with kindness and understanding and compassion and consideration when dealing with others.  The clerk who said ‘Happy Holidays’ was doing her job.  The company that decided to advertise ‘Holiday Sales’ most likely hoped to be inclusive with their advertising.  It’s extremely unlikely that either were out to entirely destroy mentions of Christmas in the public square.  There’s no denying there are evangelical atheists out there, but for the most part, these incidents are misunderstandings, not fronts in the Christmas Culture War.

I think about these things every time a story comes up in this vein.

Is this a battle I need to fight?  Is there another, less offensive way to take this?  Am I reacting to someone else’s outrage, or do I really feel slighted by this myself?  And, as a Christian, I really do ask ‘What Would Jesus Do?’  That’s not just a slogan; it’s a way of living, a way of relating.  What would He Have ME do?  How would He have me respond?

How should I act so as not to bring shame to Him as I wear His name?

Nobody can say I’m not politically active and engaged.  People who know me know I like a good fight.  But I also hate discord, I hate that I HAVE to fight sometimes, and I hate a BAD fight.  It’s a dichotomy, but there it is.  And fighting at Christmas is the last thing I want to do.

As I was writing this, a Chronicle article came up in my feed entitled ‘Here’s where Christians are and are not supposed to shop this holiday season’ detailing the research of a website that rates the – what, Christianity-compatibility?- of a number of companies.  Just stop it.  Is it any wonder Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore to me?


EDITED TO ADD: The Chronicle is pretty clearly trying to mischaracterize the rating website.  Check it out for yourself and see if you agree:  http://www.faithdrivenconsumer.com/