The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

The Accidental Missionary

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day.  After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

“So, how’s work going?” he asked.

For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America.  My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.

I plead the fifth.

I answered my buddy’s question with,

“Definitely feeling blessed.  Last year was the best year yet for my business.  And it looks like this year will be just as busy.”

The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought.  Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s.

But it was a lie.

Now…

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Christmas…er…Holiday Stupidity

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Borrowed from Whatever I Think. Click on the pic to check out her blog!

It’s Christmas time.  Really, it is, though in public government schools, among myriad other places, you wouldn’t know it.  Why?  Because Christmas, and any reference to it, is being systematically squelched.  It should amaze everyone that here, in 2012, in the freest nation on earth (well, at one time), we can’t publicly celebrate Christmas!  At least, we can’t anymore without some recrimination.  This has become one of the many things I hate about Christmas.  Where has the good will among men gone, because it surely is not widely evident, not even in the Christmas season when it should be modus operandi.

As I headed into the grocery store last week, I encountered one of the ubiquitous Salvation Army bell ringers.  He wished me Happy Holidays, and I responded with Merry Christmas.  He had the audacity to chide me for that (Really!!), telling me I ought to say Happy Holidays, that it was better…and safer…these days.  Better for whom?  Safer for whom?  And who cares!?  This stance that we have to curtail our Christmas spirit (or have it forcibly curtailed) is stupid and infuriating, and yet in so many cases we who celebrate Christmas just shrug our shoulders as if there’s nothing we can do, so why bother trying.

Did you catch the irony that the bell ringer is working for a Christian organization as a Christmas employee, during the Christmas season…the season of giving…and during the Salvation Army’s largest fundraising event of the year?!  I did, and I told him I did not believe in wishing Happy Holidays to everyone, when in fact I (and most others) are celebrating Christmas!  (What I didn’t say was that I didn’t appreciate being chided for Christmas greetings, and that if he was looking for donations, that was a really poor way to go about getting any.)  I did pass along my annoyance to the Salvation Army, however, and they (shockingly) responded…appropriately (to me), and (hopefully) appropriately to him.

Every single day I read or hear on the news about the latest assaults on Christmas.

  • No more Christmas trees…now they’re holidays trees.
  • Many places are banning Christmas holiday trees altogether.
  • Christmas carols?  Nope, holiday music, and definitely no religious carols.
  • Christmas shopping on Black Friday?  None that I saw.  Black Friday sales for holiday shopping.
  • Some schools have banned the kids from saying Merry Christmas.  What??  (First amendment, but I digress…)
  • No Christmas decorations…winter decorations, or generic holiday decorations.
  • Employers banning Christmas greetings.  WTH??

It goes on and on.  You can see the evidence of this even in Hollywood, with fewer Christmas movies coming out this year than in years past.  I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas movies:  Elf, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas…  They’re  like Christmas music for me – a way to capture the magic of the season for a moment, and to celebrate what should make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.  They’re  a momentary escape from some of the rotten realities of the season…like this ongoing war against Christmas.

What is astonishing is how infrequent it is that those who are exposing all of this anti-Christmas foolishness are not pointing out time and time again – loudly – how no one is seeking to ban anyone else from celebrating their holiday of choice.  There is no movement to stifle Chanukah celebrations in this country.  No backlash against Kwanzaa.  No attempts to silence Ramadan observance.  If anything, these holidays are protected and preserved, as are those who celebrate them.  But Christmas…an official national holiday…is being silenced little by little, all in the name of fairness, equality, and the right to live unoffended.

Well, what about me?  It offends me to CENSOR Christmas.  It offends me that we have become a nation so over-sensitive to being offended that we stifle our own expressions of faith and joy lest we offend others who are expressing their faith and joy (publicly) in a different way.  It’s stupid!  It’s infuriating!  Perhaps most of all (and in my opinion), it seeks to devalue the real reason for Christmas to the point where there is barely a vestige of Christ left in Christmas.

Truly, what I wish is that Christmas…Christmas…CHRISTmas…would be valued more as a celebration of Jesus’ birth than a holiday for extravagance and decadence.  At the minimum, I wish that this ridiculous notion that those who celebrate differently are offended when Christmas is celebrated openly, publicly & joyfully would be put to rest.  It’s not the case…at least, not in this country, and we should not behave as though it is.

So, that’s how I am celebrating, and I’m starting by wishing you all a bold & joyous Merry Christmas!

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I Hate Christmas!

I HATE CHRISTMAS.

There, I said it.

I know it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but I am in that statistical minority that would like nothing more than to skip from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, leaving all the gift buying, tree trimming, gift wrapping, decorating, partying, gift giving, stressing, and exhaustion for someone else.  In large part it’s the ridiculous commercialization of this holiday that has put it on my shit…er, naughty…list, such that consumers are encouraged, wheedled with, pushed and begged to make this the best Christmas ever by purchasing whatever hot item is currently on the must have list.  I hate that we as customers are so easily manipulated by our desire for things.  How many of us are willing to fight, scrap and maul each other over some spectacularly priced item that we need want?  Black Friday, the more or less official kick-off to the Christmas season, starts before we have even digested Thanksgiving dinner, and many of us are all but tipping chairs over in our rush out the door to fill our cars with Black Friday sales.

And then there is the war on Christmas.  Sure, we live in a country where we are free to celebrate Christmas as we choose (or indeed, any holiday we choose), where Christmas is a FEDERAL HOLIDAY, and yet there is a (seemingly) growing movement to excise Christ from Christmas.  It’s fine if we celebrate Christ’s birth (the real reason for the season) as long as we do it privately, and not in the public square.  Never mind that the public is us, never mind that we who celebrate Christ are not requiring that every other faith (or non-faith) restrict their own holiday celebrations, and certainly never mind that turning Christmas into the more inclusive (bland) holiday season is still referencing something holy Perhaps most of all on this particular issue, I hate that no entity seems to have a backbone to stand up to these Grinches until their selfish, misplaced, faux offense is exposed on the news.

Psychologists will tell you that there are many who find Christmas to be the most difficult, most stressful, most anxiety-inducing, most depressing time of the year.  It does not surprise me.  There is enough commercial and political ridiculousness to tarnish the most ardent Christmas spirit.  I used to think these psych statistics referred to (a relatively small number of) people with no family, no friends, no money, no home, or no reason to celebrate.  (As if any of those conditions constitutes a reason not to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I digress…).  I now know that it can be anyone, and I know that because I am one of them.  There have been countless Christmases that I have dreaded, that have been wrought with devastating disappointment for me, and though some of those disappointments were attached to a gift I received, they were never about not getting what I wanted, but rather about realizing beyond the shadow of a doubt how little I was valued by the gift giver.  It was visceral, piercing pain.  So many years I spent looking forward to Christmas, building up in my mind what a wonderful day it would be, and being done in by whatever it was that crushed out my joy for that day.

Thankfully it wasn’t every Christmas.  Thankfully there were happy ones as a young kid, when the whole family would converge at our grandparents’ home for a few days of Christmas fun.  Thankfully I remember those Christmases, enough so that I want to make absolutely sure my own children experience the complete, unfettered joy that comes from Christmas being all that it should be for them.  And what I want most for my children is for them to wrap their hearts around the Christ child, the only reason for the season, to anchor their joy in Him, and to see intimately how and why “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17).

So maybe I don’t hate Christmas.
Maybe I hate that Christmas has become more about what it is not than what it is.
I abhor the crass commercialization that starts earlier every year.
I loathe the war on Christmas.
I despise how people can disappoint and hurt each other on the very holiday that they should be celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth.
I hate my own Grinchy attitude, legitimate though it may be, because it is not anchored in Christ.

On the other hand…
I love the real reason for the season…Jesus Christ!
I love the joy my child has in Christmas.
I love watching him get joy not only from getting gifts, but from giving them.
I love that we share that kind of joy.

And I love Christmas music.  There is nothing better than listening to glorious music that expresses the joy of Christmas and celebrates the good and perfect gift of Jesus Christ!  If only we celebrated those things with the same vigor all year long.  A resolution, perhaps…but for now, at the (almost) beginning of this Christmas season, I leave you with one of my favorite Christmas carols.