Columns 2005

Christians win war on Christmas

As the debate over Christmas in stores continues, I have what I think is a great suggestion. Why don’t we put Christmas back in church and ask the stores to butt out altogether?  This way, there may be the semblance of a hope that our children will grow up understanding the true meaning of Christmas. And no matter what the commercials tell you, it isn’t to beat your siblings out by getting the most presents under the tree.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. I was always taught that at a birthday party it was the honoree who got the presents, not the guests. This would logically lead to the conclusion that the money spent on booze, lights, trees, parties and gifts should instead be given to your chosen place of worship as a gift to the birthday boy.  They, in turn, honoring the true meaning of Christ’s life, would use those things to help the less fortunate among us.  I mean, honestly, isn’t that the real message Jesus brought to the world?

Just about every culture and society since recorded history began has had some kind of midwinter festival.  Maybe it was the darkness causing people to need a reason to celebrate. That’s certainly something we can relate to here in Alaska.  Or maybe it was a way to recognize the shortest day of the year and celebrate the fact that from then on there would be a rebirth of the world as the sun and warmth slowly crept back.  Whatever it was, midwinter is a traditional time for festivals and celebrations going back even farther than the Druids and moving up throughout history.

So I have no problem with a midwinter festival. But let’s call it that.  Let’s have all the traditions and ceremonies we want surrounding it. Buy expensive gifts for your loved ones or get drunk at parties or overeat at sumptuous meals – whatever works for you. But let’s not pretend this has anything to do with the birth of a child two thousand years ago who came with a message that is the antithesis of the celebration we now claim to hold in his name.

There was no Christmas tree or snow in Bethlehem. There was no jolly fat man in a red suit riding on a sleigh. There were no reindeer or elves. There was a baby who came with a simple but powerful message about love and redemption and living a life dedicated to making the world a better place.  There was a mother and father who loved and protected him and celebrated the joy of their first child. There was the example of family and caring and making do.  There was nothing that would ever lead from that scene to the Neiman Marcus Catalog of Obscenely Expensive Gifts.

So I don’t want Christmas back in the stores. I think saying happy holidays there is just fine.  After all, that phrase encompasses whatever anyone might be celebrating at the moment whether they are Christian, Jew or Wiccan.  Keep the phrase Happy Holidays in the stores amidst their overabundance of material goods and glitter and trinkets.  Christ doesn’t belong there. The Christ we learn about in the Bible would probably only ever be found there if he was begging for alms to give to those even poorer than he was.

I think it’s time to divorce the real Christmas from the holiday celebration held in the middle of winter.  Let that celebration be what it is – a time for families and friends to get together, share a meal, visit, laugh…whatever.  And let’s put Christ back in Christmas and Christmas back where it belongs – in the hearts and souls of those of us who believe that the message we got over 2000 years ago can’t be found in a mall.

So if you want to hear the words Merry Christmas and have them hold the true meaning of the holiday, go down to your local shelter or soup kitchen and say it to all the people there. Then roll up your sleeves and pitch in to help. You’ll be closer to Christ and the meaning of Christmas there than you will ever be anywhere else in this town. And then when you’re done, head to Caf´┐Ż Loco and wish Bobbie a Merry Christmas while she warms you with a latte so she won’t be so lonely on the holiday.

As for me, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays – whichever you personally find less offensive.