I cringe at the image. Cardboard signs, trite T-shirt slogans, and scowling faces brighten news sites under titles proclaiming the indispensable work of the Christian church: “Christians Boycott over Holiday Greeting” and “Religious Sharks Eat Their Own over ‘Xmas.’” (I might have made up that last one.)
Here are thousands of believers—mobilized, verbal, passionate—but about grass and flowers (1 Peter 1:24). Fury comes gushing out for those who dare make Christmas less than what it “should” be, which I assume alludes to an idealized ‘50s version. But the fury simply sustains the caricature of what Christians really do.
If we want a real Christmas, perhaps we should all sleep in caves with cuddly cows and run for our lives from lunatic kings. That’s as real as it gets. Christmas has never meant anything to those not participating in the real why—notice, for example, that the Jewish leaders didn’t go check in Bethlehem even after they told the wise men where to look. Expecting the world to celebrate the “right way” is not realistic.
Something about all this holiday angst reminds me of Daniel, who was enslaved as a boy to be raised under a pagan system. Not only did he serve a non-Christian king, he learned pagan arts, literature, and modes of operation—even his changed name pointed to a false god. His ground-shaking protest? Praying three times a day.
Or take a gander at David. God had made him king, but he never used that title as a source of hubris while someone else sat on the throne. Rather, he tried serving Saul before nearly becoming a kosher shish kebab and refused to attack him when given the chance.
When Herod lopped off the head of Jesus’s cousin, he didn’t spend His energy railing against the king, boycotting, or posting a flaming attack on the despot’s Facebook page. Instead, he mourned and got back to what He loved to do: teach the gospel and help people (Matthew 14:1-14).
If we want people to know what Christmas and, more importantly, Easter mean, jumping up and down and screaming won’t do much. Maybe we should try living those days out instead—and not worrying about which department store misses the mark we think they should keep.
Prayer and mourning make waves—even angry outbursts work on occasion. Really, Jesus would have been justified in showing quite a bit more anger than a whip and some flipped tables, but He spent too much time teaching and showing the gospel.
In other words, if someone refuses to say “Merry Christmas” or uses the diabolical “Xmas,” it’d be great if Christians were too busy serving, loving, and sharing some good news to notice. Yeah, that’s my idealized Christmas.