We’re closing in on Thanksgiving and the wheels are now in motion. The Christmas season is up and running in several local stores. Non-profit organizations will soon give you an opportunity to Share the Christmas Spirit. Children won’t be short on ideas when they’re asked “what do you want for Christmas?” Adults will fret about how to make this the Best Christmas Ever. Credit cards will make more frequent appearances. Rehearsals are underway for your local school’s Jingle Bells holiday program, and Christian churches will soon commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with sermons, songs, seasonal decorations and often elaborate musical presentations of their own.
Meanwhile, those so inclined will begin their annual angry search for new evidence of the War on Christmas.
The essence of the War on Christmas is the idea that those who wish to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ in a public way should be free to do so however they see fit, even if local laws or business directives are violated in the process. They believe that any restrictions on their seasonal outpouring of religious sentiment are part of a deliberate subversive effort to thwart, stifle and snuff out Christian expression.
I have no idea who came up with the catchy phrase “War on Christmas,” but it has gained traction over the years by the tireless efforts of FOX News, which trots out its slick “War on Christmas” graphics whenever evidence of the good fight is found.
In December 2015 an artist painted a decoration on the front window of the post office in Rupert, population 5,700. The decoration read “Christ is the reason for Christmas.” The only problem was that federal law prohibits religious displays in or on federal buildings. Since post offices are federal buildings, the artwork came down and was replaced with the more universally themed “Peace on Earth.” This action, seen by some as a frontal assault on Christianity, was not received warmly by the War on Christmas warriors. The National Court of Social Media was immediately convened, and to hear all the outrage it appeared that Christianity, or America, or both, were teetering on the brink of collapse.
It’s possible that our Republican-controlled White House, Senate and House of Representatives may choose to change the law and make religious displays in post office windows legal. If so, God speed.
But while we wait for our leaders to act I’ll suggest that if there is a true War on Christmas, it’s not going very well for those waging the war. Each year the Christmas season not only returns, but seems to grow in length. Parades still flourish, bell ringers still ring bells, credit card balances still grow, your children still wake you up at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, and devout Christians the world over still attend church and worship their Savior during this beautiful season of reflection, reverence and holy commemoration.
And speaking for myself, I couldn’t care less if a passerby or a store clerk or a business window wishes me Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Listen closely: I am not offended. My spending habits are not changed. My testimony and witness of Christ as my personal savior is not weakened if a Nativity scene is staged on the front yard of a local church instead of a city park. In my travels I’ve been wished Happy Hanuka in Jewish neighborhoods. My response is “Thanks, you too.”
It seems to me that the depth of religious conviction in an individual is measured inside the heart, not by outward splashy actions. You and I, we both believe in Christ, but if you put up Christmas lights on your storm gutters and I don’t, it doesn’t mean you love Jesus more than I do.
If you choose to be offended by someone who wishes you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, then please chill out. It’s not about a solid red Starbucks cup. It’s not about window decorations. It’s not about local, state or federal laws enacted to respect the rights and beliefs of all Americans. Christmas is about you, your personal relationship with Christ, and your response to His call to serve others. The rest is just marketing.