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The Trap of Keeping Christ in Christmas

posted Nov 30, 2015, 7:40 AM by Pam Etheridge

As we head into the Christmas season I want to offer a cautionary tale. There is a very seductive trap that too many people fall into during Advent. I call it the “Oh Poor Jesus” trap. It starts with the “Keep Christ in Christmas” memes on social media, which are not a problem in and of themselves. It then moves on to battles about Christmas trees and Nativity scenes in government spaces and arguments about whether cashiers should wish us “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” As of today people are complaining that Starbucks holiday cup doesn’t have Christmas symbols on it. People get themselves all wound up and indignant, as if using inclusive language which invites people of different faith traditions to be included in the holiday season, somehow victimizes Jesus.


Do you remember the 2013 Christmas tree drama with Gov. Chaffee? He had the audacity to call the tree in the State House a “holiday tree” in an effort to be inclusive and to maintain the principle of separation of church and state on which this country was founded. This triggered a huge backlash with Christians screaming that he didn’t call it a Christmas tree. That story made the primetime news, cable news and several of the major papers. Some Rhode Island representatives actually took valuable law making time to introduce a bill insisting that the tree be called a Christmas tree.


In my opinion this kind of keeping Christ in Christmas is exactly the opposite of what Jesus would want from those of us who follow him. It is too easy to allow our false sense of victimization to distract us from the places where Christ is really needed. While news anchors are reporting on the Christmas tree battles, they are not talking about the reality that 51% of children in this, the wealthiest country in the world, qualify for free or reduced school lunches. In 2013, the same year when a single Christmas tree in our tiny state was taking up so much space in major national news sources, 33,636 people died from gun violence. And while Christians are in an uproar about the Starbucks cup, according to the Department of Defense, we have 89,931 military men and women in harm’s way in the Middle East.  I suspect that Jesus would prefer us to use our indignant energy to be figuring out how we are going to solve these and so many other important issues.


Let’s not fall into the “Oh Poor Jesus” trap. As we head into the holiday season let’s resist the media's attempt to say that we, the followers of Jesus Christ, are somehow victims. Because the reality is we are not persecuted. We belong to the most powerful religious tradition in our country. If we want to protect Christ lets reflect his love for all the world to see. This is how we remember the reason for the season folks, not acting like whiney toddlers who don't want to share our holiday season. Rather we keep Christ in Christmas by doing what Christ did, feeding the hungry, binding the broken, freeing the oppressed and loving the unlovable.


Merry Christmas!