By now, we are not strangers to the inevitable conflicts that seem to surround the Christmas season. Our digital environment and 24-7 news outlets make it hard to miss the fights and feuds that follow us from year to year, all involving what is called the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Each December, we see the debates on our social media feeds over whether it’s appropriate to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas ” — or whether it’s constitutional for a nativity scene to be funded and displayed by a government agency.
“I, as a Christian, personally don’t take offense to someone saying to me ‘Happy Holidays.’ They are happy for most! I always lead or reply back with ‘Merry Christmas.’ That’s my choice.”
This year, we’ve watched as the Parks and Recreation Department of Phoenix, Arizona, implored a group of individuals to stop placing their 15-foot Christmas tree on the top of Camelback Mountain, a tradition the city has enjoyed for 15 years. Citing safety concerns and a desire to preserve the mountain’s natural beauty and majesty, the department chose to cut down the tree and carry it back down — a tree that took a Scottsdale Adventure Club four hours and about 16 people to carry up Camelback Mountain.
After pleading their case to city officials and starting a petition on Change.org, which has received over 1,200 signatures of support, the city of Phoenix retracted its previous dismissal of this ongoing tradition and allowed these residents to place their tree atop the mountain once again.
Then there is the ongoing Starbucks cup controversy. Each year, the coffee corporation teeters between red cups and green cups, Christmas imagery or a more minimalist design, typically following current design trends as opposed to declaring a war on Christmas. And each year, coffee lovers vow to support this chain regardless of their holiday leanings — or, conversely, vow to boycott in the name of Christmas spirit.
Over the years, I’ve lost track of which cup is being used, typically opting to support small local coffee shops over the corporate giant. Terry Prince, a North Carolina churchgoer, takes this approach to the Starbucks controversy:
“I, as a Christian, personally don’t take offense to someone saying to me ‘Happy Holidays.’ They are happy for most! I always lead or reply back with ‘Merry Christmas.’ That’s my choice. The reply back almost always is ‘Merry Christmas.’ I don’t think I have ever had anyone snarl or get ugly back with me. And as far as the Starbucks red or green cups, who cares? I try my best to boycott those cups, not because they’re red or green or don’t say ‘Merry Christmas,’ but because the coffee’s not that good. I say — relax, share Christ when we can, and for goodness’ sake, buy some decent coffee.”
When will we as Christians stop buying into the war on Christmas and stop allowing these controversies to ruin a season that was intended to unify? In 2 Timothy, we are reminded time and again of the importance of avoiding arguing and controversy because it leads to — you guessed it — more arguing and controversy.
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly … Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Timothy 2: 14-16, 22-24)
When we look at the Christmas season, we must begin to see what it is truly about: Christ’s birth. The reason Christmas as we know it now exists is to celebrate that birth and what it means for us — a chance to truly live, a chance to overcome our hardships, a chance to freely approach God.
So why are we wasting it on such foolish things? As Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
When we look at the traumatic entry of Christ into our world — unwed parents, a political leader inciting genocide, a climate of civil unrest — and his subsequent 33 years of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching his followers, it seems awfully petty that we, God’s people, could allow something as trivial as a Parks and Rec Department or a coffee corporation to impede on this most joyous season.
Christ is the gift of God, given to a lost and dying world. When we take away from this by focusing on the negativity around us, we forget about the abundant life available in Christ. We forget the true meaning of Christmas.