Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Stop being daft about Christmas

"Stop being daft about Christmas."
—Trevor Phillips,
chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, U.K.

The head of the commission charged with protecting human rights in Britain (pictured at right) is trying to get the message out that, "It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be the star of the show." This, according to an article in The Yorkshire Post is in response to a move in recent years in which school nativity plays have been banned in some places and altered in others so to not offend minorities with their Christian meaning. According to The Daily Mail,
His intervention clears the way for councils and other public bodies, which have often allowed the celebration to be downgraded by politically correct considerations, to put up decorations, display cribs and send out cards with a clear Christmas message.
They are discussing the chairman of the commission's comments over at the On Faith Forum of The Washington Post and Newsweek with panelists chiming in. Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright says their,
It would be nice to think that the worm was starting to turn. The reality is that it isn't the Muslims or the Hindus who are 'offended' at Christians doing Christian celebrations. It is the old-fashioned secularists who, discovering that their myth (that Christianity would die out by the end of the 20th Century) had failed to come true.
Baptist minister and professor of law, J. Brent Walker says,
It’s ironic that the season during which many celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace often comes with a manufactured “War on Christmas.” This yearly battle in the culture war is fought against an enemy that simply does not exist.

Of course it’s fine to celebrate Christmas, and Christ is indispensable to its proper celebration. Christ should not be crowded out of Christmas either by fussy sensitivities or grubby consumerism. Christmas is Christmas, and a tree is a tree, and a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree.

That said, I offer two important principles.

First, there is a big difference between public celebrations and governmental observances. Private citizens and religious organizations are perfectly free to celebrate Christmas openly, visibly and in most public places! It’s only governments that, under the First Amendment, cannot observe religious holidays or lead religious exercises....

Second, there is a fine line between political correctness and good manners. For example, it is perfectly appropriate to extend a specific holiday greeting like my Jewish friends do when they wish me a “Merry Christmas,” and I return a “Happy Hanukkah.” But it’s often similarly appropriate to wish another “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” if I’m talking to a person whose religious affiliation I do not know. It’s simply good manners and common courtesy to employ a more general greeting. The same goes for merchants who have advertised goods to all Americans of many religious traditions who may or may not celebrate Christmas. None of this disparages Christmas one iota or diminishes its enjoyment in the least....
All of the panelists responses are found here: PC Christmas.

King of Peace's pastoral resident, Jay Weldon, referred to this in passing in his recent sermon The Journey of Advent in which he said in part,
It was also during this time that what some have called the “War on Christmas” began. Stores across America, waking up themselves to the realities of a new millennium, began asking employees to wish patrons a simple Happy Holidays. As nativity scenes disappeared from storefronts, as Targets and Starbucks and Best Buys toned down any hint of the gracious incarnation, as those familiar words of the season disappeared from most seasonal transactions, some were incensed. I have to admit that I was among those at first who missed the simple warmth of a “Merry Christmas.” I once became quite angry with a work colleague of mine who refused to wish me anything but a happy holiday. “You are a Methodist!” I told her. “We talked about your daughter’s confirmation retreat. I think it is alright for you to wish me a Merry Christmas!” She was unrelenting, and I remained quietly offended.

It was a sign of the times, but slowly I began to learn something from those church banners juxtaposed against the malls of Atlanta. Starbucks gave me the coffee I wanted, Target gave me the candle holder I needed for my mom, Best Buy gave me the gift certificate I needed for my dad, but they couldn’t give me Christmas. It had nothing to do with their holiday salutation; Christmas wasn’t found there, and a simple phrase wouldn’t change that fact.

I had to come to notice that the writing was on the wall, just as literally as Isaiah is crying out to the world in etched stone, just as these churches were calling out to me in their roadside signs. “When you drive on,” they seemed to say, “you will be reminded that what you are looking for this Christmas will not be found in those stores. When you have finished, come back and let us journey together that long road to Bethlehem. Let us beat the swords of our hearts into plowshares together, again.” If we know who we are this advent, and we know we are not yet there, we must remember again where it is we are actually going.
The full text of Jay's sermon is online here: The Journey of Advent.

What do y'all think about the so-called war on Christmas? What do you think should be done about the disappearance of Christ from Christmas or the Holy Days from the Holidays?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 12/18/2007 8:22 AM, Anonymous Kelly said…

    Is there anything we can do other than be true to ourselves, try not to offend and try not to be offended?

    Christ has not disappeared from my Christmas, and we can all experience Holiness in our days by extending kindness and compassion.

  • At 12/18/2007 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that most would rather bow to what is being done to the Christmas season than to stand up and make a statement of their belief.

    I for one wish a Merry Christmas to everyone, with the hope of understanding. This is a season of love, we should show this to each other in all ways known. Love me as I love you!

  • At 12/18/2007 2:48 PM, Anonymous kenny said…

    I agree with Rhonda in that I try to wish people a Merry Christmas. I'm not trying to be offensive to anyone of a different faith and I hope that it's taken in the spirit intended.

    I hope that I can do the same for others if they wish me well in Ramadan, Chinese New Year, or anything else I don't subscribe to personally.

  • At 12/18/2007 3:38 PM, Anonymous Kelly said…

    I agree too. That's what I meant by being true to ourselves--greet people with what's in your heart this season. By not offending anyone, I meant that I won't become defensive if somebody politely wishes me Happy Holidays.
    I feel like the greeting of Happy Holidays is meant to include everyone. I don't think that the majority of those who use the greeting are being intentionally exclusive of Christ.

    Personally, I have never seen anybody get bent out of shape over the greeting of Merry Christmas or well wishes for any holiday celebrated during this season.

    Frankly, though, I would rather get a Happy Holidays with a smile from somebody then nothing at all. It is the season of Love and as long as we're all expressing that in one way or another, I'm happy.


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