what is it good for? (Christmas edition)

I dig Christmas. It is the time of year when the two warring halves of my personality are most at odds, but when my perky, carol loving side beats my surly inner hipster down with tinsel and candy canes until she limps off mumbling about how happiness is so mainstream now.

I love the food, I love the cheesy decorations (within reason people-I’m watching you) and the carols and stupid Christmas movies and TV specials. It is a shiny, lovely, sprinkly time of year. Why anyone would want to declare a war on such a magic-fest is beyond me.

I don’t really get the whole ‘War on Christmas’ thing. Probably because in Australia we don’t seem to be that fussed about it all so its import has sort of sidestepped me a little. It’s also probable that I don’t get it because I don’t need to.

The first time I really thought about it was while laughing my ass off in that Community episode where they’re really over the top about how to be culturally sensitive at Christmas. The dean was taking incredible pains to not be offensive to those who didn’t celebrate Christmas (Merry Happy!) and Shirley changes the words to Silent Night (sleep in relative ease). It’s classic.

Obviously part of why that is so funny is that it verges on the ridiculous to remove everything that could be conceivably offensive to anyone and in the case of Silent Night it left them with bland and meaningless (and HILARIOUS) words to engender some sort of vague holiday spirit. I thought “hahaha, how true. It’s a little ridiculous to care so much about religious sensitivity. How much of a big deal could it possibly be, if I say the word Christmas. It’s all a bit silly”.

I know it was an exaggerated situation, but according to some American contacts I have and some footage I’ve seen of certain American talk shows, this is the reality a lot of Christians are facing. Their children can’t say Christmas at school any more. Their malls display the generic and inoffensive “Happy Holidays”. The Christ is being taken out of Christmas. Bum bum buuuuum…

To that I say: Hooey. Bull, baloney, hogwash.

If you are a Christian, if you believe that Christmas marks a day (note to remind you that Christmas was originally a pagan festival, usurped by the Chrishies to celebrate the birth of Christ- he wasn’t actually born then) for the rememberence of when your loving and immense God became flesh and dwelt among us, then no rebranding of the arbitrary day chosen can take the Christ out of it. Let me tell you a secret.

Words only have the power that we give them.

It’s not like Jesus is Tinkerbell-ing every time someone says “X-mas” (note to remind you that the X in X-mas means Christ, so calm your farm) or “Seasons Greetings” and one day he’ll cease to exist because enough people didn’t believe in him (quick everyone! I DO believe in Jesus! I DO believe in Jesus!). If THIS is the God you believe in, you should exchange him for another because he sounds useless.

To that I also ad: I don’t care.

I don’t care if no one calls it Christmas. I don’t care if all nativity scenes blow up. They could send tanks into the streets with huge pointy guns pointed at my face that will shoot me in my face (which, btw, is similar to the experience of a lot of Christians in other countries who could conceivably cry religious persecution) if I so much as think about baby Jesus and it still can’t change what it’s about for me. I choose to celebrate the birth of Christ, as a reminder that love moved to be near us in the form of a wee baby and then went on to show us the importance of peace and a completely counter cultural, revolutionary way to live.

Christians! Think for a moment about what you’re fighting for! This time of year, the decorations, the Christmas specials, the ridiculous, heart attack inducing quantities of pudding don’t equal Christmas. It seems extraneous to have to say this after the millions of Christmas specials that have taught us, ironically, the true meaning of Christmas.

There is a reason everyone rather hypocritically decides that at this time of year more than any other time of year is the bit we should be nice and forgive our brother-in-law for backing his car into ours. It’s because Jesus came to show us how to give of ourselves and by doing so, changed everything. That, overly pedantic and petulant brothers and sisters is what it’s all about.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s cool! It’s fine. I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, or Eid al-Adha or any other non-Christian religious festivals, because it wouldn’t make sense and because they don’t mean anything to me. My fellow believers: same goes for everyone else. Similarly if, like my wonderful big brother, you think that the Christmas story is a load of hogwash, that’s fine too. It does seem ridiculous.

If you do celebrate Christmas, and you believe Jesus to be the (I’m sorry) “reason for the season”, perhaps a lovely way to celebrate is by being kind. And loving. And by reconsidering your four hundredth Christmas purchase and maybe doing something more necessary and helpful with the money. And by perhaps thinking about the many other ways you can expend your energy in loving the unloved, feeding those that are hungry and fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves as He showed you and in doing so, worshipping a God who cannot be hurt by people’s refusal to speak His name, and who does not care about tinsel, or shopping malls, or carols or presents or pudding or the word we’ve given to the day we celebrate His coming to us.