christian-scrooge

The Christian Christmas Grinch

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone13 Comments

5 Cautions for Christians at Christmas

 

‘Tis the season for egg nog, Christmas music, those little pepperminty Kisses (which, btw are the greatest thing ever) and yes, some Christian insanity.

Let me just take this time to say that I love you. All of you. I love all my readers. I love Christians. I love the church. And that is why I changed the title of this blog from the merry, merry “Five Annoying Things about Christians and Christmas” to whatever it is I’ve decided by the end of this post. After all, this is the season of great merriment and joyage. I should probably be a little less contentious at some time in the year. I suppose the season of yule is as good a time as any for that sort of thing.

But don’t expect Mr. NiceGuy for a whole blog. That’s asking way too much from a candid Christian sojourner like myself. Because the total, transparent truth is, some Christians and churches annoy the heck out of me every December.

In fact, if you have the classic jingle about that green-footed, cuddly-as-a-cactus, Stink-Stank-Stunk, Mean One known as Mr. Grinch, you should probably play it as you read my 5 annoya–, I mean, cautions for Christians at Christmas.

 

1.  Santa, Christmas Trees, and Snowmen

Every year a group of us Christians go around talking about how pagan the Christmas tree is, and how we’re all going to Hell because we polluted the “real meaning of Christmas” (more on this later) by inadvertently worshipping some pagan god by virtue of a lighted plastic pine (or maybe even a real tree for some of you) we sat in our living rooms. Not to mention the “black magic” of Frosty the Snowman, with his coming to life and all.  And we can’t forget the issues with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick and how he’s overshadowing Jesus as the hero of the Christmas story in our kids’ imaginations.

I think it’s all ridiculous.

At an average birthday party, how many things are done that have absolutely nothing to do with celebrating the fact that the person lived another year? Not the birthday gifts. Not the food at the party. Nor the birthday cake. Not the candy bags for the guests, or the “my-tee-dawg” bounce houses, or any number of a million other things that happen at birthday parties. Those are all celebration elements. Harmless festivities. I say, if you want to take the festive celebration out of the Christmas holiday, then go ahead. But don’t call me less a Christian because I choose to keep it in. For birthdays, for Christmas, or for anything else?

 

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Big Red is totally going down...

2.  Gifts, Lots of ’em

Which brings me to the Holy Grail of Christmas Christian guilt-mongers. Presents. Every year we hear how “Christmas isn’t about the presents, it’s about…” (again, more on this later). But the truth  is, Christmas is all about the presents. It is. No, yes… it is. Jesus was a gift to humanity (and not a cheap, second-rate gift either). Jesus was God’s best. A symbol representing the relationship he wants so desperately to have with us all. Yes, desperate. God cherished the possibility of relationship with us so much that he gave the only gift that could make it possible. His Son. In turn, we give gifts to those we love as a token of how much we cherish those relationships. Christmas is about relationships, and gifts are a way to sacrificially express/model what Jesus did in an eeny, teeny, tiny, small way. So Christians, get over it! Gifts are good! Say it loud and proud. “I’m a Christian, and I like gifts at Christmas time!” As a matter fact, it’s because of this that I think gifts given at Christmas time to those we love are more core to the holiday than those we give to people we don’t.  But that’s me.

 

3.  Advent Conspiracy, and other chest-filling ventures

Which brings me to number three. This one is tough. Because, deep down, I’m all about charity and helping the poor and needy just as much as the next guy. Some Churches, with great intention, have pushed an idea that Christmas gift-giving should be sacrificed in the name of charity. I’m fine with that as long as you’re fine with that. The problem I have, and hear me, is the idea that if I choose not to give to a charity or special giving program, I am somehow less Christian. This is difficult to explain with so little space for it, so I’ll say it as straightforward as I can. Christians love to condescend. And we will take any good-intentioned, people-helping, awesome idea and sprinkle so much gold on it that if you decide not to go with it, you’re somehow “less.” There is no “less.” We have to stay away from making our ideas the “de facto” standard.  Luckily, I go to a church that talks about “including” charitable work, rather than telling us that if we don’t give to the needy we’re missing the point of Christmas. Such a suggestion is taking it way too far. Besides, Christians don’t have the corner on charitable-giving… heck, we probably don’t even lead the category. (Perhaps that’s why we’re emphasizing it.  How’s that for contradicting myself?)

 

4.  The “Real Meaning”

Which brings me to the ever-revolving door of what Christmas “really means.”  Each year the Christian community comes up with new rhetoric for what the real meaning of Christmas is. They’re all good things, but geez, how many “real meanings” are there? Okay, so you think I’m being silly. Maybe I am. But generosity, serving, Jesus’ earthly existence, grace, faith, family, happiness, joy… all of these things have been the “real meaning of Christmas.” This month, as you listen to people, preachers, parents, and others talk about Christmas, listen for how many times  “… that’s the real meaning of Christmas” is said. I suppose my issue with it is that we elevate our ideas (I, too, am very guilty of this) to the highest level of importance in hopes that people will listen. Yet, in doing so, we probably misrepresent what the actual meaning of Christmas really is.  Try it… ask a few people today what the meaning of Christmas is, and see how many different answers you get.

 

5.  Christmas or Xmas, whatever.

Okay, I admit that there is enough super-sensitivity around this subject to go around for all parties involved. It’s ridiculous that the word “Christmas” could be offensive to someone, as if it were a four-letter-word. But frankly, who cares whether Target or Walmart uses Christmas or Xmas?  Just because a few (okay, nearly all) retailers are resulting to “Happy Holidays” does it mean that the world is going to forget about Jesus. Not likely. And that’s because the church, you and me, is still here. We’re still thriving. And if no store ever puts up the word Christmas, Jesus will still be central to the holiday because we will make it so. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I can’t think of anyone who was saved because they saw “Christ” in Christmas as they pummeled and trampled over each other on Black Friday.

 

And there you have it. See, that wasn’t that bad. It could have been way worse.  Trust me.

Other Good Reads:

Rachel Held Evans:  Blessed Are the Entitled!

 

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(baby voice) Awww... lookatdatface...

 

What would you say is the real meaning of Christmas?

 

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
12 comments
Steve Manatt
Steve Manatt

Christmas is what you make it (or don't @James) and is intended to be a time of rememberance and relational togetherness. For me, it's my favorite holiday because I love giving gifts. It's one of the ways I say to loved ones that I consider them special. It also is a time where families have an excuse to get together and make memories that can be passed down from generation to generation. Thanks for the post and Merry Christmas.

James
James

Going to be quoting one of your comments in my blog tomorrow morning, Antwuan.

Lori Karvasale Freeland
Lori Karvasale Freeland

One of my favorite things about you is that you tell it like it is. Sometimes I think people make up controversy just to have something to do...love this article!

Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe
Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe

Celebrating the gift of God's Son to us- which for us includes church services, charitable giving, giving to pour family and friends (I LOVE gifts!!!!!!) and cake. Because, you know, BIRTHDAY. We also love our Christmas tree, Bing crooning "White Christmas", and the yearly craziness of my 9 year old son performing in the Nutcracker (since he was 5, and he finally snagged Fritz!) And all those other joyful secular things like cookies and Starbuck's holiday drinks.

James
James

To backtrack a bit, I know a family who were asked to leave their church because they decided not to celebrate Christmas. I don't know why they stopped celebrating, but the fact the the church basically evicted them really rubs me the wrong way, both about the church and about Christmas. Why is it required to celebrate Christmas? There is absolutely no indication that anyone celebrated the birth of Christ in the Bible, that Jesus ever expected future generations to celebrate his birth or, for that matter, that it occurred anywhere near December 25th. Christmas, and how it is celebrated today, is a convention that has slowly evolved over hundreds of years. Why my family and I originally stopped celebrating Christmas was the "paganoia" thing (think "paranoia" and "pagan"). We reacted, as relatively new Christians back way then, to the pagan origins of the holiday and felt it would be better for us to abstain. Life has changed considerably since then. My wife, who is Jewish, has moved away from Christianity and pursued a more traditional Jewish religious and cultural lifestyle while I maintain my faith in Christ but choose to try and view it through the lens of Jewish literature and education (see my blog for details). As a family, we discovered an interesting side-benefit of not celebrating Christmas: no stress in December. It's wonderful. I think my son David celebrates it in some fashion now, only because his wife and her family celebrate. I know my other son and my daughter don't because they self-identify as Jewish, as does my wife. I have no more motivation to celebrate Christmas than I do to return to the church. The holiday seems so hollow to me. I find more personal and religious meaning in Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, all of which Jesus would have observed as well as his Apostles, than I do in Christmas and Easter. I don't think poorly of anyone who chooses to celebrate Christmas and, as I said before, some Christians do take this opportunity to behave in a more Christ-like manner, so I can't complain there. But I don't feel a personal or religious imperative to celebrate Christmas myself. It doesn't bring me closer to God than those holidays I choose to celebrate and just serves as a reminder that the church found it necessary to surgically remove any part of Judaism from anything to do with the Jewish Jesus, the Jewish disciples, and the Jewish expression of our faith. As I've mentioned more than once on my blog, Christians really don't like the fact that “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22). We had to re-invent our faith in Jesus to excise that teaching of Jesus.

James
James

My family hasn't celebrated Christmas in 15 years, so it's not something we miss. My wife is Jewish (long story), so we tend to avoid Christmas and Easter. I'm a Christian but haven't worshiped inside a church in quite some time. Occasionally, I think about going back, but the thought of facing the requirement of celebrating Christmas within a church context keeps me away at this time of year. At one point, I was hung up on the whole "pagan" thing, but I've gotten past that. Virtually every religious celebration in both Christian and Jewish traditions has some pagan influence. I've seen Christians use Christmas as the motivation to do wonderful things for other people, but then, we should be doing that year round. In the end, Christmas seems to make most people, including many Christians, stressed out, worn out, and in debt. Christmas isn't a requirement in my life and I'm pretty sure I won't fry in hell without a glass of ice water if I sit it out every year. The benefits of foregoing Christmas is a lot more emotional and financial peace than most of the people around me. Chanukah is a lot more low-key.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Well said Steve. I think Christmas is about that "relational togetherness" you mention... and the family traditions do add an extra flare!

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Cool!  Thanks James.  We're gonna get you a guest blog on here if it's the last thing I do... I'm working on it!

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

That all sounds good! Are you going to video your son's nutcracker performance... It'll make for excellent bribe material when he's a teenager.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

So, you mentioned "the thought of facing the requirement of celebrating Christmas within church context".  What do you mean?  I'm curious why you don't celebrate Christmas in any form.

James
James

Thanks. In the meantime, today's "morning meditation" is up: Kabbalah Christmas. Not your usual Christmas commentary.