Someone better tell Fox News and Jon Stewart that I really exist. I am the actual guy waging war on Christmas.
If you have been anywhere near the internet these past few days, you know that the annual “War on Christmas” meme is in full force, particularly on Fox News. Jon Stewart took advantage on Dec 3rd, to poke some hilarious fun at the idea that Christmas is under attack.
That being said, I think this year I am actually signing up. I think I want to openly go to war with Christmas. Against Christmas. As Christmas’s enemy.
Every year as soon as Halloween is over, I see myself falling into the same patterns of avoiding Christmas. For nearly two months every year, I work hard not to have Christmas. So why not be open about it? Why not embrace the War on Christmas?
Throughout most of November and December, I do many things to keep Christmas from being celebrated. I try very hard to avoid saying “Merry Christmas”, and I prefer to be greeted with Happy Holidays. I even actually like the shorthand X-Mas. I make note of all the other holidays being celebrated in my calendar. Hanukkah, the Feast of St. Nicolas, Santa Lucia, Kwanzaa etc… I have even been able to cancel a few community/workplace Christmas pageants in the past few years and it felt great! I don’t think Christmas should be in schools, I don’t think it should be in the workplace, I don’t think it should be noted by public figures or politicians. If I could remove Christmas from most of the last 8 weeks of the year, I will have succeeded in my war.
Christmas music can be the worst! I generally don’t listen to Christmas music in my car or at home, and it irks me to have to listen to it when I can’t control the sound system. I complain when hear Christmas music in malls. The sound tracks playing in most commercial spaces make me want to thrown up. Christmas concerts annoy me, especially the ones on TV. I get sick of Christmas music so quickly. It feels like the drummer boy is using my head as a drum. And when pop musicians make Christmas albums, I almost wish I was deaf.
When I see decorations in public spaces, a part of me wants to tear them all down. All the green boughs, the red bows, the holly, the wreaths, the ornaments, all of it could just disappear and I would be fine with it. I just don’t get why people want Christmas lights all over the place, even if it does get darker sooner in November. I often criticize stores that sell Christmas merchandise and I try not buy any. Christmas inventory is so kitschy most of the time. I scoff at people who put light displays up on their house after Halloween. And don’t get me started on those who put up Christmas trees in November… it drives me nuts. What is the point of having a giant tree up for month in anticipation of present opening day?
Often, Christmas movies make me cranky. Christmas TV episodes, specials, and Christmas themed TV are almost always awful. It is like they are trying to capture some mushy, gooey feeling that I want no part of. But Christmas commercials and advertising needs to be banned from existence. Another “Ho ho ho” from Santa and I think I will lose it. You will find me in some corner sobbing as I whisper “No more Santa, No more.”
In my work life, I spend a lot of time encouraging the people around me to keep from celebrating Christmas too. I try to keep Christmas from invading my workplace and I always schedule work for myself on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then after those big days, I have time with my family and friends. I am becoming more sure that the people I work with think I am the grinch who has stolen their Christmas joy, because I force them to put a lid on the Christmas celebrating.
Now with Facebook and Twitter becoming ‘War on Christmas’ battle grounds, I have become a Christmas grinch on social media. I have called out my friends for loving Christmas too much. I have advocated pairing down the celebration and toning down the cheer a notch.
In November and December most years, I just wish Christmas would go away. So when Fox News folks start complaining about the War on Christmas, I feel like saying, “Yeah, finally we are winning.” Christmas is getting what it deserves. It is getting pushed aside, moved out of the way. I want something else to take its place, I want a new holiday for November and December.
Or rather, I want an old holiday.
For you see, I am a Lutheran Pastor.
And I love Advent. I think our world needs Advent. I think we all need Advent. When Christmas begins in November, it stops being what it is supposed to be, which is “The Feast of the Nativity.” When Christmas becomes a two-month long celebration of shopping and a chance to gorge ourselves in sentimentalism and nostalgia, it is not the “Mass for Christ’s Birth.”
Sarah Palin, one of the Popes of American Right-Wing Christianity recently said, “I love the commercialization of Christmas, it spreads the Christmas cheer.” She has missed the point. Obviously. But she has named an important reality. We just don’t want to deal with the things that Advent deals with. We want to avoid the harsh realities of life, and have a big party instead. A party that has now become the symbol of global inequality and broken social systems.
Christmas has no meaning on its own. Christmas is empty and vapid when it is a two month opportunity to increase debt and avoid real issues.
Christmas only makes sense at the end of Advent.
It only makes sense when we have waited and watched for Messiah. It only makes sense when we have longed with Israel to be released from captivity, exodus, exile, and oppression. It only makes sense when we have admitted our failings and imperfections, when we have admitted the suffering of the poor and lowly around us, the injustice of the marginalized and victimized, when we have admitted that we are complicit in perpetuating systems of violence, abuse, and death.
There is a reason, I wage war on Christmas each year. Because it isn’t Christmas yet. We haven’t got there, we have missed what needs to come before. As we long for Messiah through Advent, and discover again all the ways in which our world needs a Saviour, the Feast of the Nativity, the Feast of the Incarnation can finally take real shape. The coming of Messiah into our dark and broken world can finally be the light and hope we truly need.
Our world is still very much in need of a Saviour, our world is full of captivity, exile, exodus, oppression, conflict, suffering, poverty, systems of violence, abuse… and death.
We don’t like Advent because it means we aren’t there yet, and that feeling opens up a whole world of emotions, ideas and experiences that we don’t want. We want to be at the party, not sitting outside hoping to get in. But that is where most of the world is, sitting outside waiting to get in… and realizing they almost certainly never will.
So tone the Christmas down this year. Put out 4 candles, and wait with all those who still need a Saviour more than Christmas present.
And maybe after waiting with me, with Israel, with all those who still need saving, you will see why we don’t sing “Joy to the world” until we have sung “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” first.
What do you think? Should we be at war with Christmas? Or is it okay to celebrate Christmas for two months each year? Share in the comments or on Twitter: @ParkerErik
Interested in some more snark:
12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better
7 Reasons Church isn’t for You
11 thoughts on “I am at War with Christmas”
So in fact, you are at war with immediate gratification and the desire to pretend that if we spread enough Christmas cheer we can bury the harsh realities of life.
So now say more about concrete ways to lift up this ‘Advent’ you speak of. 4 Candles and counting down weeks (of course, all the Advent calendars are made of lego now…).
Most people are exhausted and broke and hung over by the time Christmas morning rolls around… family fights are flaring up as visits last too long and we are literally spent… All are best efforts of holiday cheer leave us exhausted and sleepy until we pick ourselves up and party again at new year…
So give us a better map in upcoming posts! And post it at Halloween before we are kneed deep in the coloured lights.
I am also against a 2 month Christmas without Advent. Advent makes sense of Christmas.
Amen to all of that, and thank you for what you say. I’m not a fan of Christmas at all. The secular version is truly awful, crass, over-commercialised. Here in the UK, some secular traditions (especially around Santa and trees) are so embedded that any attempts to curtail them, especially by well-meaning multiculturalists in local councils, are seen as some sort of cultural attack.
But even in the church, Christmas is done badly (or at least my branch of it, the liberal Presbyterian tradition). We don’t do Advent enough (occasional talk of the second coming, not enough waiting for the messiah in the way you discuss); it gets folded into nativity plays and gift services and trees. And then the day of the nativity comes, and we may have some midnight services and family Christmas day services – and then nothing. Nada. Back to normal. No 12-day celebration of the feast of the incarnation. My wife and I will be leading worship on 29th Dec at our church, as we have for the past three years (she’s an elder and I’m training to be a lay preacher). I’ve tried mentioning in the past that we’re still in the season of Christmas, and I just get blank looks. I like to imagine that the Catholics do these things better, but I’m not so sure. As practised in our wing of the church, I find Christmas an enormous anticlimax.
Thank you! One of the great things about Advent and Messiah is that they come whether we know it or not, and the Feast of the Incarnation comes whether we celebrate it or not. Keep working for the coming of Messiah!
I know I’m about a year late to the party… but I think both the people who celebrate 2 months early and the people who, like you, say, “wait until the day and not a second before!” have missed the mark.
We can wait, we can long, we can remember why we need a savior and cry out for Him… but part of the joy of the season is that we know what’s coming! Like the Magi following the star, we are longing and searching for our savior, and we know we will find him on that glorious day!
So remember what Advent is all about. Sing O Come, O come Emanuel. The world is in great need of His hope and light. But also sing Joy to the World! The Lord has come, and by His grace we have all been saved!
While I can sympathize with the notion that Christmas can be celebrated anytime of year, as Christ has been incarnate even in Advent. The problem I have is that Advent is the one season that gets the Christmas shaft. We aren’t singing Silent Night on Easter Sunday, or Joy to the World on Pentecost.
Human beings follow things in a linear fashion, we are people built by narrative. We don’t watch movies starting in the middle or novels backs to front. So lets give Advent a chance, and then for the entire season of Christmas, do the Christmas thing… instead of giving up Dec. 26th.
I like advent. Here’s my egocentrism at work: Advent is the only time of the year that I don’t feel awkward (believing I am an outlier in society) for harboring a sense that things aren’t complete and that stuff is broken and I hope it will one day be fixed. Advent prompts me to look more intently, listen more attentively, and perhaps to try to quiet my mind enough to sense that something IS happening after all.
In Poland Christmas starts the night of Dec. 24 and lasts until the middle of March. In America Christmas starts before Thanksgiving and dies on the actual Christmas day. It’s sad to see all their Christmas decorations and trees piled up for recycle while we’re about to start our celebration.