Friday, November 16, 2007

what is this holiday about?

It’s been exactly two years since I was emailed a petition asking me to commit to never shopping at Target (a huge U.S. retail chain) again unless they reintroduced the word “Christmas” to their holiday signs and decorations. It seems that, in an attempt to greet customers of all religious (and non religious) backgrounds, this non-Christian affiliated company chose to use a very generic greeting, one that would express holiday greetings to all of their customers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

As often happens with me, my hurt and disappointment with the church quickly turned to anger as I came to believe that another selfish protest would only lead to more people turning away from the message and the mission which were most important. And I vented that anger quite publicly.

This year it has been on my mind again as I will shortly travel home to the U.S. for a month of Christmas insanity. There are a lot of things I’d like to say in a post like this. I’d love to throw out facts about pagan holiday traditions that we’ve embraced in our own Christmas traditions. I’d love to outline the history of both Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations in an attempt to remind my brothers and sisters that our claim on the month of December really wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. But what I think I should do is simply implore you to consider the witness you bear when you spend your time only standing up for self serving interests (celebrate our religious holiday or else!) rather than standing up for justice. Not self serving kind of “justice”, but true justice.

For instance, can I assume that those who signed that Target Petition turned right around and shopped at Walmart? Walmart, of course, is another huge chain in the U.S. only this one takes human rights violations to a new and impressive level. Not only does it buy and sell products made in sweatshops and often by child labour throughout China and other parts of Asia, Walmart underpays employees (by an average of $1 an hour), has been accused of doctoring time sheets, costs U.S. tax payers and other employers over $1 Billion a year in health care costs for Walmart employees who are not covered (over 70% are not), and, for every two jobs Walmart creates in a community, they destroy three more by putting other local businesses out of business. Most branches have also worked out massive tax breaks with local governments that local citizens have to pay for. So that cheap toy, made by child slaves, that you’re giving your own children to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, isn’t nearly as cheap as you might think.

This Christmas consider the cost and your witness when you shop.

- Is it really honouring to Christ when you give companies like this your money in His name?

- Aren’t our protests surrounding the Christmas holiday a lot like Peter cutting off the ear of the guard? Didn’t he think he was standing up for exactly the same thing that we think we’re standing up for? And what was Jesus’ response? What do you think it might be today?

- When Jesus was given the opportunity to defend himself against charges of blasphemy (among other things), Jesus did not take it. Jesus wasn’t into self serving “justice”. But, when money changers decided that they would cheat other people by using small sacrificial animals as a huge cash cow, er, money maker (sorry), Jesus actually took the time to leave the temple, hand weave a whip, then return to the temple to dish out some serious premeditated justice. Jesus believed in and lived out a very holy kind of anger and justice. And so should we.

- And in that vein, when unbelievers see organizations like The Red Cross doing more for needy people than the church, they wonder if we have any purpose beyond a self serving one. And they have a point. In fact, one could make a strong argument that The Red Cross is actually more Christ like than many churches.

I can’t wait to give my daughter presents this year. Jamie and I have made a commitment that, in an attempt to teach Olyvia the real meaning of Christmas, we’re going to do our best to make birthdays the “big present day” and leave Christmas for family, and charity, and others. Still, presents will be given and I can’t wait to see her face. But can’t we also find a way to instil in our children, and maybe also ourselves, that when we celebrate the birth of Christ, we really should do it in a Christ honouring way? Where we shop and how we shop really does matter. And what we protest and who we protest does as well because, when we take on Christ’s name, we insinuate that he would be doing what we’re doing.

Your witness matters and people are watching to see what your religion is all about. I don’t know about you, but I hope mine is more about holiness and justice and the meaning and values behind the name Christ, than a word and a holiday that I invented. Want people to respect that holiday? Then give them something to respect. Love God and love others.

Merry Christmas!

Comments on "what is this holiday about?"


Blogger neatr_natr said ... (1:02 AM) : 

Recently I have come to believe our protest should be against the materialism that IS the religion of America. We can say its Christianity all we want but when it comes to where you treasure is there your heart shall be also, our hearts are in stuff, the more we can get the better, regardless of whether we need it.
Every year Christmas gives me a nauseous feeling. We should have Christmas birth something new in US each year, this year I think it should be buy less and give bigger gifts to doing God's work.


Blogger Larry said ... (1:14 PM) : 

Fortunately, over the past year and a half, I have seen a turn in the way Christians are behaving. We are not perfect. Yet, at the same time, groups like Sojourners/Call to Renewal and others are now influencing the conversation. Many of the icons of the far right have been exposed for their own agenda, that when held up to Scripture.

For too long, I caved to commercialism and which I beleive is veiled as being joyful as a Christian. I do believe that we can say Merry Christmas, but to protest to say it is the only way does presume we ought to dominate people.

On the other hand, to deny anyone the freedom to express their religious preference as Target did, is not right either. We do need to strik a balance. Don't we?


Blogger Tim said ... (2:58 PM) : 


In an official statement Target said it "...serves and employs a diverse range of people..." and that their "...merchandise, advertising, and marketing include a diversity of traditions, particularly at this time of year." Target denied that it has asked employees to avoid saying "Merry Christmas" and let that decision rest with the employee.

I've seen this confirmed on several Christian websites so the notion that Target forbade their employees from using the phrase "Merry Christmas" appears to be as inaccurate as the message we got in the 80's that young people were not allowed to pray on their own in public schools. The truth appears to be that no rights were taken in either of these situations, only that the organizations themselves had decided to take a neutral stance by not recognizing any particular religion over another. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who put that law into place.

(Incidentally, anytime the subject of school prayer comes up, there's always somebody with a story about a kid who was given detention for praying quietly at a lunch table. Nobody ever knows these people first hand, mind you, but they do exist and somehow, like all good ghost stories, are validated with the phrase, "uh-huh, I heard it happened in Texas.")


Blogger My2BoysNMe said ... (7:23 PM) : 

All of this reminded me of a news article I read online this past week:


Blogger Cari said ... (8:56 PM) : 

It was I who sent it. My heart was right, my intentions were pure, but my actions were not correct. I know you were angry because you replied to my entire email base and publicly criticized my stance, without a chance for me to fix it myself. We talked about it, and I agreed you were right (about Target), I was wrong. You called me Peter and told me to put down my sword. (Not the first time I've been called Peter.) I got the same response from my church (your childhood church) but it was in a private way, in manner of discussion why it may not be realistic to ask the world to believe as I do, and I totally understood how my actions were wrong, and said so. I even went shopping there, and wished someone Merry Christmas and they said thank you. Two years later, and I haven't ever seen that email again. I'm curious to know if it is circulating to you again, or if you are still angry about something from two years ago?


Blogger Tim said ... (10:02 PM) : 


: ) Actually, I got another forward about it last week but yes, I probably still haven’t let the last one go! That said, I’m really encouraged to hear about the direction Wilmont is heading in! Very encouraged!


Blogger Cari said ... (4:06 AM) : 

So far to go, but a little step is better than no step. I wish your parents were going to be there. I'm going to miss them.


Blogger My2BoysNMe said ... (4:51 AM) : 

I got this in an email today......

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks
are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten
that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and
that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate
My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival.
Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be
most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed
with children of your own.

I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the
town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My
birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santa's and snowmen
and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If
all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such
a scene on the town square because there would be many of them
all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree
a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made
all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree.
Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that
one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and
what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one,
look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth
here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My
birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope
to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and
lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know
them personally. They just need to know that someone cares
about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on
the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write
and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family
this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't
afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them
the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down
here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him
or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take
their own life this season because they feel so alone and
hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving
everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town
calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there.
Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't
allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you
from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday.
If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd
close and let their employees spend the day at home with their

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a
missionary - especially one who takes My love and Good News to
those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole
families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas"
tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or
receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few
gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other
charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery
for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief
in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do
things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let
people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love
Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all
the rest.

Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll
help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a
most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and


Blogger Tim said ... (3:33 PM) : 

That's an absolutely stellar post! Thanks!


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