Christmas may be over but the war on Christmas wages on.
A couple of months ago Starbucks kicked off their holiday program by unveiling the 2015 red cup and a few people lost their minds. The old familiar ring of "war on Christmas" was brandied about as folks screamed about some corporate decision on a coffee cup design as more proof that the US was falling into even deeper darkness. This red cup was more proof that there is a concerted effort to remove Christ from Christmas. Whether people cry out about the usage of the "Happy Holidays" greeting or a government decision to not have a nativity scene, there seems to always be something that people will point to and say "this is a war on Christmas, which is an affront to Jesus himself!"
The accusation of some massive conspiracy to remove Jesus from Christmas is in itself some proof that there is a problem. There is a problem when we as a community feel that we need a corporate sponsor for our faith.
This Christmas is brought to you by Starbucks! We love Jesus too as long as you buy our crap!
In the same way, we don't need government sponsorship for our holy days either. We don't need the government to pass "Merry Christmas" legislation or to put up Christmas trees or lights or anything else. There is a problem when we see a government decision to not display a nativity scene as some attempt to scrub Jesus out of the Christmas story. They aren't stopping YOU from displaying a nativity scene so what is the problem? If a local government desires to celebrate the holiday season with displays for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all next to a Festivus pole, let them. It doesn't change anything about our celebration of Christmas.
The mixture of corporate or government sponsorship and faith is toxic. The aims of the kingdom that Jesus was born to initiate are opposed to the aims of most corporations and ALL governments. They don't play well together. More on that another day.
This post is not about some fabricated war on christmas that concerns itself with red cups and happy holiday greetings. It is about something darker and more sinister. Because the fabricated war on Christmas as described distracts us from the real war on Christmas that is happening in our world every day. Before we get to that we need to look at why Jesus broke into our world in the first place.
Why did Jesus break into our world?
In the book of Luke, chapter 4, there is a story that tells of Jesus visiting a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. While there Jesus is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and He unrolled it to the place where Isaiah had written these words:
The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me. Why?
Because the Eternal designated Me to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them.
He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free, and to tell the blind that they can now see.
He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression.
In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time; this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace.
Jesus then rolls the scroll back up and sits down. The people in the synagogue focused their attention on Jesus, waiting for him to speak. Jesus then tells them that these words from the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled then and there, in their hearing. Jesus came into the world to preach good news, free captives, bring sight to the blind, and liberate the oppressed. And this isn't just a spiritual truth. We often over-spiritualize the words of Jesus, sapping them of any real world implications. Jesus brought us freedom from sin to be sure, but he was and is also concerned about freedom from the oppression happening in the material world at present.
Why else would he perform the miracles that he did? Why heal the sick, provide food for people, raise the dead, and all the rest that the gospels record of Jesus' ministry? Jesus didn't perform these miracles to show off His power but to paint a picture of life in a world made new again.
The results of Jesus' miracles were never supernatural. No one got laser eyes or superhuman strength or the ability to fly. No, Jesus was restoring them to be fully human again. Humans ought to walk, so make the lame walk. Humans ought to see, so restore sight to the blind.
Jesus broke into the world on a mission of restoration, to bring an end to injustice and oppression, to be an advocate to the poor, and ultimately to put an end to sin and death.
Some not so jolly statistics...
Here are some statistics from our world that represent a real war on Christmas, an affront to Jesus Himself:
- 795 million people don't have enough to eat on a daily basis
- Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. That is 8,500 children per day
- 22,000 children die each day due to conditions of poverty.
- 1.7 billion people lack access to clean water.
- 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and none of the 12 percent lives in developing countries.
- An estimated 29.8 million people live in modern slavery today
- Approximately 78% of victims are enslaved for labor, 22% of victims are enslaved for sex
- 26% of slaves today are children under the age of 18
- An estimated 60,000 victims of slavery are enslaved in the United States.
This isn't even the complete picture. These statistics don't take into account racism, police brutality, economic/social oppression, violence, and more happening in our own neighborhoods. And lets not even get started on the things we feel in our own hearts, think in our minds, actions we take, and inaction that either directly or indirectly support injustice, oppression, and hate.
When I stand back and look at those worldwide statistics, think about my own heart, and see the problems in our own country, I can't help but wonder if we are being purposely distracted. Could it be, that to be led down a path to rail against things like red cups in light of such injustice is something fabricated to keep us from the real war all around us? Or maybe when we see the height of the injustice all around us we'd rather live a safe life in which our only enemy to go against is a happy holidays greeting?
So what do we do in light of such great injustice and oppression occurring in our world, our communities, and in our very own hearts?
We can start with allowing Jesus, who came to bring an end to injustice and the cause of injustice, to work in and through us. The song "O Holy Night" is one of my Christmas favorites and includes recognition of the work Jesus wishes to do in and through us:
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
The real war on Christmas thrives when we see our brothers and sisters in slavery and oppression and do nothing. Or worse, support it through our actions.
In my next post, I will be discussing how I reacted when I become aware of a form of injustice that we are no doubt all supporting or have supported without knowledge.