December 12-18, 2005



Fight the real 'War on Christmas'

The buzz on talk radio and on cable TV describes a War on Christmas. It's true. There is a War on Christmas. But it's not the war you'll hear the windbag pundits talk about.

That false crisis centers on whether sales circulars and store banners proclaim "Happy Holidays," or "Merry Christmas," and why store clerks salute you with "Season's Greetings!" That's a war? Oh, come on. Get real. It's not even a skirmish.

The real War on Christmas is not whether "Merry Christmas" gets edged out of the crass commercial marketplace, those houses of material worship where people spend way too much money on stuff they really don't need.

The real War on Christmas is the growing reality in the culture that the shopping and the decorations and the overconsumption is actually the major part of the celebration of Christmas.

Why get upset about "Christmas" being dropped from the commercial marketplace unless you think there is some intrinsic connection between the miracle of God's incarnation and maxing out your credit cards at the shopping mall. 

The real War on Christmas is that for our culture the meaning of Christmas has become little more than a cheesy sales gimmick.  

Christians have a part in this real War on Christmas. It's to remind the world that the miracle of Christmas is that God loves us so much, God came down to earth to save us, to dwell with us, to teach us. And God took the form of an ordinary human child born to an ordinary human family under dire circumstances and in the midst of violence.

Matthew's Christmas story gives us terrorism in the form of Herod, a Saddam Hussein of his time and place. Insecure of his power, Herod is threatened by the arrival of an infant king, and he orders the slaughter of male infants of his own people, in his own land.

Jesus and his parents flee for their lives! They become refugees on the run from their own government, much like the refugees in the Darfur region of the Sudan today, and like the people of Kosovo did 10 years ago. (Here's a mind-stretching exercise: Imagine that if Jesus arrived today, he might be born to a refugee family in Darfur!)

Here's the miracle: The birth of Jesus, the arrival of God to save us, came in the midst of intense human cruelty, poverty and sinfulness. This was God's choice, through which God sent us a powerful message: God signaled, in effect, "I am with you, all of you, in the worst of the worst in order that you may have the best of the best. I am with you forever so that you may be with me forever."

This is the meaning of Christmas worth fighting for. Let the shopkeepers call their silly winter sales what they wish. (In fact, why not keep Christ OUT of them.) Christians proclaim Emmanuel -- God is with us -- not only with their lips and shopping habits, but in their lives and hearts and souls.

For inspiration on how to fight this War on Christmas, check out two new resources below: The Rev. Dana Reardon's column about embodying a Christmas presence greater than Santa Claus, and Alternatives for Simple Living's treasury of Christmas celebrations.

-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster

New This Week:
For Youth! 10-10-80: Empowering Steward Leaders
It's a problem facing many a parent and congregation: How to teach youth to handle money responsibly. This program inspires young people to give 10 percent, save 10 percent and spend 80 percent. Good lessons for people of all ages. Includes free online materials and a DVD available for a nominal cost of $5. Click here to learn more about 10-10-80, produced by three Lutheran Synods in Wisconsin, the ELCA Department for Communication and Augsburg Fortress Publishers, with funding from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

A Presence Even Greater Than Santa
A sappy Christmas show gave the Rev. Dana Reardon the idea it might be great if we treated people so well that they suspected we were really Santa in plain clothes. "But then I realized that it  would actually be a giant step down from what people are supposed to think when we have been a part of their lives in any way." Click here for Pastor Reardon's weekly stewardship column.

Simplify Christmas: 'A Treasury of Celebrations'
Tired of the commercialization of Christ's birthday and looking for a way to put Christ back into Christmas? Well, Alternatives for Simple Living has archived a number of resources on how to make Christmas more meaningful, less  busy and less costly. You'll find ideas for family, church and community.  Click here for "A Treasury of Celebrations," from Alternatives for Simple Living.

Sermon: Letter from the Devil
This creative sermon takes a humorous look at a serious topic: What the devil thinks of stewardship. "If there's one thing the Devil doesn't want, it's a congregation with a strong, expanding heart." By the Rev. Ken Wyneken, pastor of King of Kings Lutheran Church, LCMS, Renton, WA.  Click here for "Letter from the Devil." This week's Treasure  Chest offering.