You would think that the primary question before people during this season of the year would be: "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" Not so. For many Christians the battle right now is all about saving the culture from giving up the Christmas greetings once used in all our stores. This business of keeping Jesus linked with commerce is big news the past few Christmas seasons.
I almost never watch Bill O’Reilly but I caught a segment last night on the "Christmas Culture Wars." What a total waste of time this debate is in the end. I was bothering my wife throughout by yelling at the television more than a few times. "What difference does it make if Dick’s Sporting Goods features a Christmas theme on their Web site?" Give me a break. And since Nordstrom’s has given in to the "Christian" pressure to restore "Merry Christmas" to their ads should we now shop there? Come on folks. The culture has moved away from putting Christmas into all their ads and promotions. Get over it. I think we should be glad if truth be known. I go to Advent services to sing Advent hymns and to hear "Merry Christmas" greetings, not to Dick’s.
Don’t get me wrong. I still say "Merry Christmas" to people in general. In some ways it opens more doors for conversation now than it did when it was popular and innocuous. What bugs me is that Christians spend so much time on this kind of silly issue. Focus on the Family, as always, is one of the key the leaders in this effort. Their talking head was the voice on O’Reilly’s program last night armed with all their research. They spent time doing this extensive research to get this message out to millions who want to save Christmas in America. I will tell you what this does in the end. It sounds skeptical I know but the real truth is that it raises more money from nervous Christians for ministries than anything else. "Hot button" issues raise bucks. (I learned this, to my chagrin, from listening to the very people who run these kinds of ministries tell me so.)
Question: Why do Christians give millions of dollars to such a "ministry" when this is what they do with it? (I know, they do a lot more stuff that is truly good, which I am thankful for really.)
In the end this is really about rescuing Christendom, as a cultural presence, not about missions and Advent. These folks do not have a theology of the church or the gospel that adequately understands culture or mission so they continue to raise millions of dollars for causes like saving Christmas greetings in the commercial marketplaces of our time. What has this to do with the real Jesus? Frankly, this stuff makes it harder for me to evangelize in the end.
While I am at it I did much enjoy an article in The Spectator, a British magazine of significance. It is really about Christmas much more than the O’Reilly stuff of last night. The editors of this magazine decided to ask prominent people, including many clergy and biblical scholars, if they believed in the virginal conception of Jesus? The answers are both revealing and sobering. This ought to be what Christian ministries really talk about, not about whether we are saying "Merry Christmas" at Nordstroms or Dick’s, or whether their Web sites feature a Christmas theme or not.
Why not start a conversation about the real Jesus, with a real non-Christian, and thus do something useful over the next two weeks. Save your money and invest your life. There’s a novel idea.