Call me Scrooge but part of me is starting to really dread Christmas. Not because of the pressure to have the most Pinterestable decorations or the busyness or the cost. But because Christmas seems to have become another way for Christians to be offended.
You know what I’m talking about. I won’t name names but some of you have posted the whiny meme’s urging retailers to keep the “Christ in Christmas” or suggested there is a “war on Christmas.” Do we really believe stores sell stuff for any other reason than to make money?
And then there’s the latest Red Cup Starbucks hysteria. This is a conversation that shouldn’t even exist. As if the snowflakes or ornaments they previously had on their cups made them somehow holier. I don’t get it!
I can smack my forehead and say, “What?” feeling bewildered by the silliness. But actually my heart is sad. I’m grieved when Jesus is reduced to a pawn of propaganda.
An argument could be made that the Christmas holiday wasn’t even on Jesus’ mind while here on earth! He never told his followers to observe the day of his birth in any way, especially not with any particular color of cups. If a day was supposed to be set aside to celebrate Jesus birth you can believe the God who prescribed, in detail, the Jewish festivals of the old testament would have made mention of the fact. But he didn’t.
What Jesus did command his followers to do was to wash feet, humbly serving each other without ego or pride. He did tell his followers to observe the Lord’s Supper. Setting aside a remembrance of the great sacrifice he made to break sin’s curse in our lives and remind us the best was yet to come. He instructed us to care for orphans, poor, and neglected people. He instructed us to make disciples. And he showed us that happens through meaningful, personal, time consuming conversations, not boycotts, pickets, rants, or unlikes.
Jesus is humble. His birth was a means to set in motion rescue for mankind, not institute a holiday to himself. Celebrating Christmas, even for Christians, is optional. What is not optional for those committed to following Christ is the expression of love through the nature of Christ himself. And this is his nature:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23
This season, before you are offended that someone has slighted Jesus by forgetting his birthday or is celebrating it the wrong way, remember he is far less concerned about Christmas than with his people loving others.
Honestly the words, “war on Christmas” shouldn’t be uttered by our mouths. What ridiculousness. There isn’t a war on Christmas. There is a war on humanity. And it’s a war waged by sin. Sin enslaves people to selfish, broken, distorted thinking and behaving. Why would we expect people who haven’t been pulled out of the pit of spiritual death by the breathtaking tenderness of a true blue hero to celebrate his birthday the “right way,” whatever that is, or any way at all. And how will they meet this hero if not through us?
If our dead hearts have been resuscitated by grace with the life giving breath of God himself then we should be the most merciful people alive.
When I see people like Joshua Feuerstein (look him up, I won’t link to him in this post) starting campaigns to have people write Merry Christmas on a red cup so they can feel more spiritual or patriotic or right or something I can only assume they’ve drunk the coolaid. The coolaid that equates morality with knowing Jesus, the coolaid that has turned life back into law, the coolaid that values outward appearance more that intimacy with Jesus, the coolaid with an appearance of godliness but that produces death. The coolaid that uses Jesus’ words but is really a religion of our flesh. Don’t drink the coolaid. Because this is the other part of the Galatians passage:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-20 (Interesting how the highlighted words are listed along with drunkenness, idolatry, and sorcery.)
If you feel tempted to post a status of outrage or offense because someone gave you the wrong colored cup, or wished you a happy holiday, or “waged a war” on Christmas then you may have missed the whole point and could be in worse shape than your offender. And really that applies to far more than Christmas, it applies to every area of life where we may take offense.
Don’t think you can rage against your fellow man over such silliness and not grieve the heart of God who loves his enemies with a heart stopping, blood spilling, sacrificial love!
The ancient Hebrews were accused of going through the motions but being far from the heart of God. “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings,” Hosea 6:6.
Don’t follow in their footsteps and turn Christmas, or even Christianity, itself into an idol. When Christmas becomes your idol you cannot reflect the heart of Christ, you lose the whole purpose of what he was doing here in the first place.
Jesus never pointed out the ways people offended him. And he had more right than anyone to be offended. Instead he laid down his rights and invited people to come.
When “offended” becomes the new Christian virtue I think it’s safe to say we’ve lost the heart of Christ.