O, Holiday Tree, O Tree with Sparkly Things On It…
There’s a new photo making the rounds on Facebook. It is a picture of a U.S. soldier in full combat gear, including rifle, with the words, “We fight and die for your freedoms including the right to say… Merry Christmas.”
Oh, my Christian brother and sisters, are we really so persecuted? Last time I checked, I can go open my front door and yell out “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I just did. Really. It made my Hindu neighbors smile. Meanwhile, in many other countries, yelling those words would land you in prison (or worse). I’m pretty sure “Merry Christmas” is not one of the things God wants us to defend with a gun. But this is not even an issue of freedom. We’re upset because governments and groups that represent people of many different cultures don’t want to show favoritism.
If you’ve read my previous posts, then you would know that many of our Christian forefathers in this country (the evangelical ones) fought very hard for separation of church and state. And I would guess that they would not have a big problem with government buildings not housing nativity scenes or trees with ornaments or other modern trappings of the season. The Puritans would have us all in stocks for the things we consider cherished traditions. And when non-Christians choose to put up their own protest to the season (through “art” or parody), instead of reaching out to them in Christian love and starting any kind of meaningful dialogue as we are called to do, we scream at the top of our lungs and generally make fools out of ourselves, driving even more people away from hearing the true message of Christ. We sound like a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees. It’s all about our rules and not the person. We’ve become bullies.
If there is any “war on Christmas,” then we are the ones waging it. Where in the Bible do you see Christmas trees, ornaments, turkeys and hams, pumpkin pie, Wii games, toys, ginormous Christmas pageants that cost oodles of dough, Christmas wardrobes in red and green, “White Christmas,” wrapping paper and bows, Christmas cards, Black Friday mobs, cookies (and cookie exchanges), last minute shopping trips, Rudolph with his nose so bright, Frosty, eggnog, and hollering out, “Merry Christmas!”? Most of these “cherished traditions” have pagan roots.
And this year, Christmas has the audacity to land on a Sunday. How many houses of Christian worship will be closed on Christmas Sunday? We can’t disrupt traditions for Christmas morning! (I’ll give a little break to those churches that meet in places like schools – some of them might not be able to have access to the buildings.) And then, there are the arguments about when to have the Christmas Eve service – can’t be too early or too late or it will mess up Christmas Eve dinner and present unwrapping plans!
Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t think so. When did Christ become the afterthought of the CHRISTmas season? And, out of guilt, we scream about the secular “War On Christmas.” It’s estimated that this year we spent $55 Billion on Black Friday weekend. Some 220 million shoppers. $55 Billion in one weekend. The American Research Group reports that shoppers say they plan to spend, on average, a total of $646 each on Christmas gifts. Do that math.
It’s estimated that in all of 2011, we will spend $50.84 Billion on our pets.
According to Charity Navigator, in 2010, we gave $100.63 Billion total to churches/religious organizations. For the whole year. Some 118 Million claim to go to church regularly. That works out to roughly $847 per person, per year (or $71 per month, or $17.75 per week). Which means, if they are actually tithing, those 118 million only earn $8,470 per year…of which $646 apparently goes to Christmas presents.
In November 2010, missionaries’ salaries ranged between $20,051 and $32,614. (from Simply Hired)
It is estimated that we spend $7 Billion on cosmetics each year. We spent $12.4 Billion on cosmetic surgery. 4.6 Million people used Botox.
We only need $8 Billion to ensure that everyone on the planet has safe drinking water.
This year in the U.S., it is estimated that the Federal government Family and Children food and nutrition assistance program will spend $107.2 Billion total.
It costs 25 Cents to package a Stop Hunger Now meal (that has 6 servings) and send it off to starving people in Haiti or Africa. Ten thousand of those meals (that feed 60,000) cost a whopping total of $2,500.
There is a very interesting account in Jeremiah 22 about the king, Jehoiachin. In it, God tells Jeremiah to tell him, basically, “How many windows of cedar do you need?” God has blessed us with many things. And it’s okay to enjoy some of them. But not at the expense of our neighbors in need. He blesses us so that we can bless others. Because I’m pretty sure I haven’t earned any of these blessings. And I’m pretty sure that starving 4-year old in Somalia hasn’t done some abominable thing that caused their hunger.
There are times I wish we really were persecuted in this country, because persecution of the Church causes explosive growth. (Check the Bible and other histories on that. Look at what is happening in China.) But since we aren’t persecuted, maybe we need to start understanding the concept of “sacrifice.” Maybe, just maybe, we could start thinking outside of our cultural box (read: prison), and say something like: “Why don’t we do something different this year for Christmas? Instead of spending $646 per person, why don’t we limit that. Say we agree to only spend $25 on each person in our family? Maybe limit our total to $200 or less. And then we give the remaining $446 to our church, or to Stop Hunger Now, or to a group like Doctors Without Borders who use that Plumpy’Nut stuff that can bring starving people back from the brink of death for a dollar a day…
And what would happen if we stop making excuses for ourselves, like: “It would ruin our economy if I didn’t spend all this money” or “my kids deserve all these toys and clothes…” If we had one ounce of faith, we would know that God would take care of things if we obeyed His Word and took care of our neighbors. Every single time I have stepped outside of my selfish wants and sacrificed even a pittance, He has provided for me. Every. Single. Time.
Two thousand years ago, God sent us His only son. He was born in a humble stable. He didn’t rub elbows with the rich and famous. He spent his time with the poor and despised. He said things like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” “Love your enemies. Pray for those that persecute you.” “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He was despised and rejected by men. And so will we be if we follow Him. Sacrifice.
So, can we Christians just stop the War On Christmas and put Christ back in the center of our lives this season? Nothing else matters.