Friday, November 10, 2006
The Battle Resumes
True Story: A man walked into a post office. He asked the postal worker, "Do you have any Christmas stamps yet?" The employee responded, "Yes. They are up there," pointing to the upper left corner of a bulletin board. Three different pages of stamps were present. Perhaps a little hard to see, the man pointed to the first page and asked, "What are those?"
"Oh," the worker replied, "Those are for Hanukkah."
"Oh, I'm sorry," the man said. "I was looking for Christmas stamps." Then, looking at the second group of stamps, he asked, "What are those?"
"Oh, those are for Kwanza."
"Oh, I'm sorry," the man stated with a tad of sarcasm. "I'm looking for Christmas stamps." Thinking, "What's there to lose?" the man questioned, "Then what are those?"
"Those are Islamic."
The man turned away from the stamps--a bit frustrated--and said to the employee, "I guess you have mistaken me. Do you have any Christian Christmas stamps?"
"Oh, yeah," the employee assured. "I have some Madonna ones right here. I just haven't put them out yet."
The man turned and walked away from the desk, thinking, "Great. Catholic." He ended up purchasing snowflakes as his "Christmas" stamps.
Now, some might say that there's nothing wrong with Madonna-stamps, but--right or wrong--that's beside the point. The indisputable point is that there is a war going on over Christmas. It stays relatively stagnant in a stalemate for about eight to ten months of the year, but for those few months that it rages, it really rages. Many of those effecting Christ negatively don't even know it. They simply get sucked into erroneous ideas of "tolerance," "relativism," and then, of course, apathy. Even Christians fall into this trap. But, there are more concerted efforts. Like in everything else, secular humanists, secular progressives, and atheists want to take Christ out of the public square--really, the private square, too, in as many places as they can. They literally want to take Christ out of Christ-mas. I didn't even mention the conspiracy of Santa Claus (which I will blog about in the future) and the complete materialization of Christmas. Then, of course, you can't forget about the ultimate secularization of Christmas--calling it the "Winter Holiday."
So what do we do? Well, first of all, we shouldn't try to take away anyone's freedom to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza, etc., etc.. That's not what America is about, and it is not what Christianity is about. But the bottom line is that Christmas is Christmas, and no individual, organization, or even government should feel obligated to totally generalize the entire event. That would be taking away THEIR freedom. But why should Christians care?
Because, most importantly, I think, Christmas, like Easter, is an incredible witnessing opportunity. Even in this secularized world in which we live, the story of Jesus can't be totally hidden and smothered, because "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." Christmases come and Christmases go, admittedly, as people apathetically, arrogantly, and ignorantly ignore the story of Jesus and for what which it calls. Yet, once a year, Christmas comes around, beckoning to all with the beginnings of the Greatest Story Ever Told--the greatest truth ever known. If you need a conversation-starter to witness to someone, ice-breakers don't get much better than the Christmas story. People gravitate to it--and for good reason. People aren't offended by it, though they should be offended by their own sin. When you begin to explain the story of the First Christmas, though, and illustrate WHY Jesus had to come as He did and WHAT He did, then the Gospel message shines through fully as it should.
We need to get back, though, to what we should do. We all can't do the big things, obviously. We are all not James Dobson, or Albert Mohler, or George W. Bush, for that matter. But I've compiled a small list (in random order) of what EVERY Christian can do. I hope you will join in.
1.) Try to avoid using (in speech or writing) "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," or something similar. This generalizes Christmas--thereby taking Christ out of it--and frankly demotes it, if you know what I mean. Although they may seem appropriate for including "Happy Thanksgiving," "Merry Christmas," and "Happy New Year" in one package, try to use "Merry Christmas" as much as possible. If you want to reference the incoming year, say (or write) "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." It may seem like a mouthful, but it's worth it.
2.) Personally, I wouldn't even say or write "Holiday Blessings." This may be over the top, for, as I said, you may be wishing to refer to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day all-in-one, but if you are referring to the Christmas season in particular, say "Christmas Blessings," or, better yet, say "God Bless You." In fact, say that all the time.
3.) As I mentioned above, say "God Bless You," staying away from luck, the Fates, etc. You should do this all year round anyway. I'm reminded of the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. One line of lyrics says the following: "Through the years, we will all will be together, if the fates allow..." The song has been Christianized, to say this: "if the Lord allows..." Is that a small change? Yes, in all appearance, but I would suggest singing the Christian version, even if the version you are singing WITH is the "fates" rendition.
Before I lose you all, I want to add this sidebar. This may sound like nit-picking, or extreme, but as the saying goes, "Extreme times call for extreme measures. (Or desperate times call for desperate measures.)" If we are only going to do the little things, we need to do a LOT of the little things. Even if we are going to do big things, the little things give us the chance to never cease being a part of the battle. And we know our enemy, Satan and his minions, are incessantly fighting.
4.) When writing or typing, please don't use the terminology "xmas." Although it may seem convenient, it is the epitome of taking Christ out of Christmas. Here's an idea on how to use the "xmas" phenomenon, though:
An "x" is made from a "cris-cross." It is used in "xmas" to make "crismas"--Christmas. But notice the second part of the x: "cross." Cris-cross. Christ-cross. Christ ON the cross. I'm sure there's a witnessing tool in there. But for normal usage, I say avoid "xmas."
5.) I've already mentioned "Season's Greetings," "Happy Holidays," and "Winter Holiday." But, also, here's a reminder not to call the time off of school "winter break." It is Christmas Break. Although kids in year-round school might have a normal off-time in the winter, kids who do not have year-round school get two to three weeks off because of Christmas and the "sub-holidays."
6.) As I've alluded to, stay away from Santa. Santa is one of the biggest detractors from Christ, especially when it comes to children. Woe, that we would cause the little children to stumble! That we would lead them astray! That we would distract them from the greatest Gift and Gift-Giver of them all! Santa is a cutesy figure, and he can be parts of Christian celebrations relatively harmlessly, but if children and/or unbelievers are involved, he should not be.
Santa parallels Christ in some elements. Along with that, if Santa is put on the same level with Christ at Christmastime, when children grow out of believing in Santa, why would they believe that the story of Christ is real? If parents are willing to lie to their kids that "yes, Santa is real," why would the kids later believe their parents when they are told, "Yes, Christ is real"?
7.) Seventhly, we need to get Christ and the story of Christ back into the media and the mainstream. An effort is currently being made at that through The Nativity Story, coming out in December. I can't fully endorse the movie's content--as I am not familiar enough with the script--but I can say that the base idea is noble. There are movies en masse about Santa Claus every year. The same should go for Christ--from preceding stories preceeding his birth, to the actual birth, to the ramifications of His birth and life.
8.) Support stores like Wal-Mart and Kohl's (Update: Sears and Macy's, as well) for bringing the word Christmas back "in their vocabulary." Criticism and boycotts from Christians finally caused a change, and a reward for these stores from Christians should ensue. The pressure needs to stay on stores like Best Buy, although, as I said, they can do anything they want, just like Wal-Mart can say ONLY Merry Christmas if it wants to (although, of course, it doesn't). Read the story here.
9.) Get involved with Christian charity operations. One of my personal favorites is Operation Christmas Child. (If you know of others, feel free to post them.) This group ships shoe-box sized packages that you assemble to under-privileged children around the world, and simultaneously shares the Good News with these children. If you don't have time to purchase and assemble a present, you can simply donate funds.
10.) Don't be afraid to mention Jesus! That's what this holiday is about: celebrating His birth. We shouldn't hide our speech about Him in the home and church. As I mentioned, it's a GREAT witnessing opportunity.
11.) Lastly, don't forget to pray. As I have spoken of prayer before, I don't feel I need to add anything here, except to emphasize it. Our focus during Christmas should be salvation, and there is no better one to have the assistance of than the God of Salvation.
Ever since Christ's birth, starting with Herod, effort after effort has been made to "exterminate" or "eliminate" Christ one way or another in one form or another. Modern-day Christians find ourselves in the midst of the same battle that caused Joseph and Mary to take Jesus to Egypt; the same battle that caused Christ's crucifixion; the same battle that the Apostles fought; the same battle that has caused millions of Christian martyrdoms; and the same battle that has resulted in several concerted efforts at the destruction of the Bible, either literally or "intellectually." Will we Christians stand up today?