Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Assault on Christmas

Ann Fontaine is one of my favorite writers, bloggers, and correspondents. She posted her Advent 3 sermon at What the Tide Brings In. The whole sermon is worth reading.

You may remember my rant about the Christmas hoop-la in the U.S. here and here. Thus, I especially appreciated this part of Ann's sermon:

Today I received this letter in my email - usually I delete them but I found this one spoke to our readings - especially James.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas (slightly edited for Episcopalians)

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are removing My name from the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year -- it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually the time of pagan festival. Of course, I do appreciate being remembered at any time.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, here's how: GET ALONG WITH EACH AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on... If it bothers you that the town where you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen in your own front yard and put out your own Nativity scene. If all of My followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for a display in the town square because there would already be so many all around your community.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made ALL trees. You can remember Me any time you see ANY tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten what I said, look up John 15: 1- 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wishlist.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President to complain about the wording on the White House cards this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then do it! It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. People in your town will attempt to take their own lives this season because they feel so alone and hopeless. Since you don't know who they are, give everyone you meet a warm smile -- it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit-picking about what retailers call this holiday, be patient with the people who work for them. Give each a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development, who are working for better lives for refugees, prisoners, people suffering from diseases that are easily curable with a small amount of money, giving tools and resources so people can support their families.

9. There are individuals and families in your town who will not only have no "Christmas" tree, but also no presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, take some food and gifts to a charity who will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do or say things that you wouldn't do or say in My presence. Remember -- When you speak badly of my children, you are speaking badly of Me; when you treat each other badly, you do the same to Me. Let people know by your words and actions that you are one of Mine.

Don't get so worked up about what you think are slights about me that occur in the material world. I am God and I can take care of Myself. I am not diminished by those things.

Instead, simply love Me and do what I have asked you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love.

It reminds me of the stupid memo we received recently from our Governor, giving all us state employees permission to say "Merry Christmas" to our co-workers and clients. What a piece of politically-motivated hooey! People in my office have been wishing one another "Merry Christmas" since the day after Thanksgiving. … Not me, of course. I'm still striving to dig deep into the season of Advent. I'll save my "Merry Christmas" greetings for December 25, as God intended. … But this Governor with aspirations to higher office expects he can score some evangelical "bona fides" points with his useless little memo.

As far as I can tell, Christmas out here in the heartland is not under attack by any godless heathens, atheists, or secular humanists. The real assault is coming from supposed "Christians" who think it's more important to put a nativity scene on the courthouse square than to care for the hopeless people in their own communities. The assault is coming from "Christians" who must buy the latest electronic device (costing hundreds of dollars) for themselves or their children, while tossing a ten-spot into the offering plate. The assault comes from "Christians" who are quite willing to spend several hours at the mall, who then grumble if the Sunday service goes more than 75 minutes.

Who's assaulting Christmas?

Oh! and lest you think I'm just a grouchy old Grinch: I'm writing this while listening to NPR with some marvelous medieval and Renaissance-era Christmas music. I find it holy and inspirational and altogether uplifting. I do not find it uplifting to hear Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer on the commercial radio stations, nor Jingle Bell Rock in the retail establishments around here. I ask you: Who's taking Christ out of Christmas??

Let's have a little reverence in this most holy of seasons, shall we?


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