Here’s why. For many years now, the business community and the church community have been waging a bit of a culture war as Christmas approaches. Right now, there are really two holiday seasons competing for everyone’s time and energy: Santa Christmas and Jesus Christmas. It’s the Santa Christmas I want to move to November.
The church community wants to keep Christ in Christmas. Most serious religious folk who are Christian want to focus on the mystery of God coming among us as a vulnerable child. And, no Emily, Santa Claus never did kneel at the manger, and the angels were not singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
The irony is that 1,500 years ago when the Christians decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25, they thought they were pulling off a cultural coup against the pagans who did their winter solstice thing around that time. The reasoning was that if we put a bigger and better holy day on around the same time, we’ll be able to make those newly baptized Christians forget all about the festival of lights, which was celebrated at the time.
The table has turned, as far as I can see, and it’s now the business community that has taken control of the holiday season.
Look at your own behavior. How many hours do you spend baking, shopping and putting up lights on your house? Compare that total with the amount of time you meditate on the mystery of the incarnation through Bible reading and worship.
Now, I have nothing against the business community. I sit on the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce. I love what has happened to Madison Street. Tonya and Cec at Two Fish told me that during the holiday shopping season they take in one-third of their annual income. For many merchants, the two months preceding Christmas determine whether they finish the year in the red or in the black. Without successful businesses, Forest Park loses both jobs and tax revenue.
The problem for me is that we have a competition that needlessly forces people to choose.
The meaning of Christmas in the way that the business community promotes it is really a prosperity festival. A time to set aside cares and to enjoy the blessings of this nation’s economic prosperity, a time to use some of that hard earned money to make loved ones happy for a while.
I don’t have any problem with a celebration of prosperity, but to my way of thinking, a prosperity festival fits much better with the origins of Thanksgiving than those of Christmas. The picture of the pilgrims being thankful for a bountiful harvest is a story more fitting for a prosperity festival than the “Night Before Christmas.”
Sure, there’d be some adjustments that would have to be made. We’d need to change the words to “have yourself a merry little Thanksgiving” and learn to decorate cornstalks instead of trees. And we’d have to get used to starting Christmas-I mean Thanksgiving-shopping at the beginning of November.
With all the frenzy of Santa Christmas behind us, Christians could settle down to ponder the mystery of a God who loves us, Jewish folk could concentrate on Hanukkah and African-Americans would be able to really get into Kwanza.
I don’t expect anyone will follow my suggestion, but my point is this: what we have now makes for a lot of unnecessary tension. I’m not advocating that any laws be passed to ban shopping on Sundays, but we can all make choices that reflect our values rather than the values of marketers.