Every year at this time the airwaves become filled with complaints about how an increasingly secular society is waging war on Christmas because one store tells its employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or some national coffee chain’s holiday cups aren’t “Christmassy” enough. The fact of the matter is that all of these stores have been working to take Christ out of Christmas for quite some time and a whole lot of Christians go happily along with the plan. Rather than Christmas, December 25th should be called “Consumermas”, because that is what it seems to be all about.
We feel obliged to go out to all these stores that decorate for Christmas, have sales for Christmas, encourage their employees to dress in traditional Christmas colors and greet us with “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Holidays”, or even “Merry Christmas”. But these big box retailers and major chain stores do not give one whit about Christ. Sure some of their employees do, but the sales and advertisements and decorations are not there to celebrate the birth of the Savior. They are there for one reason and one reason only: To get us to spend money, and lots of it, preferably on a credit card issued by the merchant. That way, not only do they get us to pay for the merchandise, but they get us to pay them an exorbitant interest rate as well. Where exactly did Christ tell us to go into debt buying extravagant gifts that we can’t afford? Yeah, I can’t find that passage either.
And it is not enough that these retailers are trying to get us to spend lots of money. They also want every waking minute of the day out of their employees. I feel bad for people who are forced to work 70 and 80 hour work weeks during December during a time when we should be making our spiritual preparations for the coming of the Savior. But the retailers know that we are all busy and the best way to get every last dollar out of the consumer is to keep the doors open an extra few hours every day and make sure that they have maximum personnel on the sales floor at all times.
Now I’m not opposed to small tokens of appreciation for the special people in your life. But if we give to those from whom we expect something in return, there is no merit in that. Maybe we should give to those who are down and out, people who won’t even know who their benefactors are, people who we will never be able to repay us. The Spirit of Christmas is really the Christian Spirit. Why do we feel the need to be generous with money we don’t have one month a year? Why can’t we be generous with our time, our talent, and financial gifts that hurt, but don’t drive us to debt all year long?
So the next time you hear someone railing about coffee cups or “Happy Holidays” or the Nativity scene that is no longer being set up on the courthouse lawn, before you blow a gasket, stop and think about what Christmas is really all about. Is our faith in Christ really that fragile that it can be shaken or offended because someone says “Season’s Greetings”? Exactly what season do you think they are referring to? As a Christian it is my job to share the joy of the Incarnation of Christ. I can’t do that very well if I’m grousing about coffee cups.
So what do I propose? Well for starters, don’t shop during the extended hours. Don’t use credit cards. Shop from small local merchants if you can. Set a spending limit. Spend some of your Christmas budget to help the poor. And finally, and to me most importantly, while you do these things, remember the reason for the season. If you keep Christ in your heart, it will be very hard for any Scrooge to steal your joy.