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January 10, 2014, 3:11 PM

The Party Is Just Getting Started...

Over the last few years, we have heard a lot about the “War on Christmas.”

The claim is that the “war” is about taking Christ out of Christmas by having store clerks say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.”  Evidently, Hannukah is to be dismissed.  And let’s not get started about Kwanzaa…

The only reason people are going to be in the stores is, Jesus.

Yeah, right.

Mike Slaughter, pastor of the vibrant Ginghamsburg UMC  <> has written a book entitled, “Christmas is Not Your Birthday.”  He even means that for the people who were born on December 25.

He notes that Christmas has degenerated into a hyperactive exercise in rampant materialism, which bears little resemblance to a celebration of God assuming the flesh of a homeless peasant child in order to bring hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the dispossessed by first identifying with them.

Now, it’s about the swag…the stuff…the gifts we want…and who deserves to get gifts from us.

It used to be that Advent was the season in which people prepared for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Now, the Commercial Christmas season starts right after Halloween and we are subjected to a steady ratcheting up of the campaigns to get us to buy stuff, until Dec. 25.

The way things are going…I expect that the stores will be open on Christmas Day, before long. 

Like the Corleones said in The Godfather, “It’s just business.”

Slaughter’s answer to this trend has been to challenge his church members to spend as much on missions to help the poor as they do on Christmas presents for each other.  He sees that as an appropriate gift for Jesus.

Following that approach, his church has raised funds to build schools and drill water wells in Africa, and support several ministries to the needy in his Ohio community.

I also have an idea, that might help to reclaim Christmas…

The twelve days of Christmas come between December 25 and January 6, which is Epiphany.

By the end of that period, the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy has died, and the malls have moved on to their pre-Valentine’s Day promotions.

Sadly, too many churches follow the examples of the malls, and quickly return to “business as usual.”

But, what if we decided to continue celebrating each day of Christmas, even after much of the world has moved on?  What if we did it by finding ways to mark each of those twelve days with some kind of special activity that would benefit the poor, the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned and the grieving?  What if we invited non-churchgoers to come an share in celebrations that involved good food and friendly fellowship?

What if we told the world, “It’s not over!  It’s just begun!”

In fact, I would hope that the twelve days would mark the launch of new ministries which would continue throughout the year.  I would hope that churches of various denominations would join together…at least during those twelve days…to do some of this work and to share in celebration.

The Real War on Christmas is the transformation of a holy season in which we are called to remember with gladness and gratitude that God loves the least of us, into an orgy a hyper-consumption that tramples over so many wounded souls on its way to the store.  I would like to see us reclaim its true meaning by reminding ourselves, and the world, that Christmas doesn’t end when the stores close.

I plan to take this up with other clergy and church leaders.  Maybe by next Christmas, we can do something special to remind the world that if Jesus really is the reason for the season, then we need to let people know the party is just getting started!

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