Sometimes, we get so silly.
This year a (very) few were outraged that Starbucks had a red “holiday cup” with no other markings on it. The angry few said the absence of snow or ornaments meant the coffee company was distancing itself from Christmas, and moving toward the more generic idea we now call “the holidays”.
Funny, I don’t remember seeing any sleigh bells or reindeer last time I read the Bible.
That “tempest in a teapot” (or better yet “chaos in a coffee cup”) came and went pretty fast. No one was buying the faux controversy – it was a massive non-event. While some still see a conspiracy behind every caramel macchiato, the rest of us are a little smarter now.
That’s not to say there isn’t a war on Christmas. Always has been, always will be.
Laugh if you like, but history tells us we’re smart to keep a watchful eye. The very first Christmas brought the slaughter of hundreds of baby boys, done as a last-ditch effort of a dying king to destroy the newborn King of the Jews. Darkness will always try to extinguish the light in its purest and most innocent form (Note: I’m avoiding the opportunity that statement presents to mention its obvious connection to abortion. You know me, never one to be controversial) ;0)
Not convinced? Fast forward to Christmas 2015. A school system in Kentucky decides to do a live-action version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for an elementary school production. Enter the usual suspects: one outraged parent over his child participating in the one scene where Linus recites chapter two from the Gospel of Luke. Charlie Brown had just asked if anybody knows the real meaning of Christmas, so Linus obliges by reciting the nativity narrative verbatim.
With lawsuits threatened, the school backs down. The young man playing Linus is instructed to stop and stand silently at that section of the production. It seems the Christmas Grinches have won yet again. But then just like the happy Who’s from Whoville, a sound begins to waft through the auditorium. Someone in the audience begins reciting the Luke passage, then another joins in , and then another. Soon the whole room is reciting along and eventually erupts in celebration!
Silly darkness. You can never put out the light.
In John’s unique, cosmic account of the same nativity story, the apostle remarks, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it” (John 1:5) That’s the cocky confidence some of my knee-jerking Christian friends need to understand. Shadowy villains will always seek to extinguish the light, but they’re guaranteed certain failure. It’s simply not possible.
Oppressive regimes may outlaw that light. Lawyers may threaten legal action, and warn of financial ruin unless you hide it. Keep it out of the public square. Lock it away in your church buildings (at least, for as long as they let you keep those. Just wait – they’ll eventually come for them as well).
“Worship the light in secret,” they’ll say, “and keep it to yourselves”.
Keep those nativity scenes off public property and on your own lawns…at least, until they pass ordinances and neighborhood association laws forbidding them there as well. Sing only the secular Christmas songs in the schools and malls, depriving them of some of the greatest music ever written. Just be sure to keep all the carols and oratorios about the baby in the manger to yourselves.
Enjoy your Christmas Day off…at least, until they take that away, too. After that, you can ask for the day off but at your own loss. They’ll require you and your family to work on those days just like any other, because to do otherwise would be to give your religion preferential treatment. They’ll ignore completely the impact Christianity has had on our whole culture, on our laws, on our sense of ethics and fairness and the value of human life. They’ll pretend they came up with all those things on their own, forgetting that most of them poured forth from that manger 2000 years ago.
They’ll pretend they came up with all those glorious elements of Western Civilization on their own, forgetting that most of them poured forth from that manger 2000 years ago.
But when they’ve done their worst, when Christmas seems to have been snuffed out, and the wick wetted so thoroughly it could never light again, then suddenly…amazingly…you will see it begin to flicker miraculously yet again. They’ll never understand how puny their attempts are to shut out the light.
It’s like plucking out your own eyes, believing somehow you’ve really extinguished the sun.
You see, even when they demand you say “happy holidays” on your job instead of Merry Christmas, they’ve outsmarted themselves. The word “holidays” comes from the concept of “holy days”. It marks the special days of the year set aside liturgically to remember the blessings of God in our lives. Those are the days we put aside secular diversions and focus on the truly sacred things in our lives – family, friends, and God.
So whether they say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, they still can’t help but point to the “elephant in the middle of the room” every December. Try to hide Him with a couple of throw pillows all you want…He’ll still own that room!
While you’re at it, go ahead and try to smother the baby in the manger with all the darkness you can muster. Yet there will still be a star shining above Him to point the way: a star that, unlike the one on the top of your Christmas tree, will never come down.
Try and kill the Christ child all you want: He will always rise again, kicking the blankets of darkness off Him like just so many limp swaddling clothes.
Bring it on, Darkness. Just try and cover up the Son. It’s you who will ultimately get burned. The Incarnation has occurred, and Christ is triumphant.
Merry Christmas, indeed!