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December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

Four days before Christmas I was “in the Christmas spirit” and had a few errands to do. This involved going to 3 businesses- none for Christmas shopping, just regular purchases. In the “spirit”, I wished each cashier a merry Christmas as I left. Now, a few years ago, and for as long as I can remember, one of the special things of the Christmas season, was the little extra happiness in just about everyone as they wished each other merry Christmas. Yes, a few of them said it with very little spirit, but, I really think almost all sparkled just a little with the message.
From the three people to whom I said merry Christmas, I got back nothing (one did say “the same to you”). So what is going on here? Of course, it has become politically incorrect to mention Christmas in the business world; supposedly it also has profit connotations or why would businesses be so concerned about it? I have to believe many or most businesses have prohibited workers from using the term.
This is a sad loss. Just as there is no Christmas without “Christ” (‘mas, anyone?), there is no Christmas spirit without “Christmas”. So, we have a loss of a long tradition which still retained it’s meaning for many of us. Gone, gone with the seasonal excitement, the city manger scene, and Christmas caroling (what would you sing?). Yes, some of these traditions still hang on in places, but in the mainstream, they are gone.
For years, many of us have lamented the perversion of Christmas by commercialism, profits, parties, and everything secular (including the pervasive Christmas movies). There is no season of Christmas; many of us start our Christmas shopping months before, and stores have started marketing Christmas earlier each year – some of them as early as September, now. The economics are so large that stores expect and get their balance sheet balanced by Christmas shopping.
Maybe, just maybe, this change is not all so bad for Christians. It is sad, indeed, but Christmas is no longer what it was, anyway. What it has become is not what it was about. For years I have said maybe Christians should just quietly slip away from it; now that “Christ” has been removed from it, that might be something we can do. While many of the concepts of Christmas are holy for believers, the truth is we believe because of the whole package: Christ born, Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ coming again. The true value to us is the whole package. Any one part is of limited value.
So, let the secular world have christmas - or ‘mas, or “the holidays” - whatever they want to call it. Let them spend their money, party, overeat, and maybe do a few good acts for the season. I think true believers can and should celebrate everyday, in the Spirit, not just the Christmas spirit. It is the Spirit of Christ we carry that will deliver the gospel message to those around us. It is the Spirit that will compel us to give everyday, give of ourselves: Visit the sick, elderly, lonely, and hungry, and love as Christ loved. (see Matt 25:21>; Isaiah 58:6>)