This year’s “war on Christmas,” the annual tumult that occurs when some particularly bellicose Christians get miffed by any December celebrations that actually include other religious groups, has been pretty muted this year. Perhaps it’s a Christmas truce?
Oh, there have been a few rounds of seasonal artillery fire. Some Kentuckians got their Christmas stockings in a twist over their governor’s designation of a “holiday tree” instead of a “Christmas tree.” A Massachusetts school that banned religious items from its holiday fair attracted the notice of Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor. A television ad for Gap attracted the attention of the ultra-right-wing American Family Association because it was too “secular.”
But we’ve just got to ask: If Jesus is “the reason for the season,” as so many of the combatants in the “war on Christmas” kerfuffle seem to believe, just what would he make of the way it is celebrated?
We’ve got to go with his reported second commandment. The first—and greatest—commandment, according to the Gospel of Matthew, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” But Jesus immediately follows this great commandment with another: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So what would Jesus say about the “war on Christmas”? We suspect, based on secondhand reports and extrapolations from the Gospels, that he’d say, “Leave the advertising to the advertisers.” After all, that matches what he said about rendering Caesar’s things to Caesar (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17) and letting the dead bury the dead (Luke 9:60).
Instead of concern about exactly how his birth is celebrated, Jesus might instead suggest that we feed the hungry, visit prisoners, clothe the poor and care for the sick (Matthew 25:31-46). He’d almost certainly be more concerned about the amount of time we’re devoting to service of our fellows than about whether we said “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays.”
He might make us really, truly uncomfortable by suggesting that we sell everything we own, give the money to the people hanging out in Cesar Chavez Plaza and concentrate on serving others, even if it means giving up our plans to watch football on that big-screen high-definition TV (Matthew 19:21).
But, being Jesus, he’d probably also enjoy a nice dinner, followed by a piece of pie, and that’s what we wish for you.
So whether it’s “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Solstice,” “Feliz Navidad,” or “Joyous Pagan Feast Day,” we at SN&R wish you happy holidays. May we always remember that the important things in life have absolutely nothing at all to do with the words we use to wish each other well, and what really counts is that we do, in fact, wish each other well.