He looked mad. Real mad. His face was red and he was straining so much that I could see a vein bulging in his neck. He was in the right lane next to me, as we were idling forward. As we inched our way to the stopped traffic at the red light he gave me a very emphatic middle finger. Satisfied with expressing his anger at his perceived injustice for my apparent lack of driving skills, he sped forward a couple of car lengths and abruptly merged his vehicle into my lane. As we both sat there waiting for the light to turn green I had an opportunity to read his magnetic evangelism on the hatch of his SUV: “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
“There’s a war on Christmas and Christians” are the battle cries that we hear around the water cooler and see plastered all over social media, especially this time of year. For the record, American Christians are not being persecuted and we are not under attack. To see Christians that are literally having their rights, liberties and humanity violated, imprisoned, tortured, fleeing their homes and countries, and put to death (some by the most gruesome of ways), please visit this wonderful Christian organization: Voice of the Martyrs.
“What do you mean we’re not under attack?! The clerk at the department store wished me ‘Happy Holidays,’ the courthouse won’t display The Nativity, and they took religion out of our schools!” I don’t turn to my local department store, courthouse or elementary school for my beliefs about God any more than I ask the gas station attendant to come to my house and cook my dinner; it’s not their role! It is the church’s (and collective Christian’s) responsibility to share Jesus Christ with the world. I’m not interested in my children’s elementary school teacher giving my kids religious lessons. Math, history and communication skills, along with some ethics, yes. Religion, not so much.
If we really believed that it was the teacher’s job to instill God, I’d simply ask, “which version?” To keep it simple, we’ll limit it to Christianity (we’ll conveniently overlook Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and a plethora of other religious beliefs for the sake of a hypothetical argument). Do we want Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant beliefs taught in schools? Choose wisely as they are very different in theologies. Ok, Protestant. Which denomination? Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Anabaptist, non-denominational, or maybe one not listed? I digress…
This is America and we believe in religious freedom. And religious freedom means that we are tolerant of other’s beliefs and give everyone the ability to worship (or not) as they choose. Religious freedom doesn’t mean that we tolerate our version of Christianity and then are intolerant of everyone else – it doesn’t work that way.
It is up to us as Christians to keep Christ in Christmas. And we keep Christ in Christmas by acting like Christians. We act like Christians that Jesus wants – joyful, loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious, humble, and peaceful (see: Matthew 5-7 for a jumpstart on what Jesus desires from us).
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! – Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
This world has enough divisiveness, anger, and resentment. We don’t need more reasons to despise one another or to make it an “us versus them” mentality. Angry Facebook rants about Christians in America being persecuted when someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in the checkout line, when the crèche isn’t displayed on the courthouse lawn, or when our school teachers aren’t leading the little ones in prayer, are not helpful and not Christ-like. In fact, trying to convince others (and maybe even ourselves in the process) that we’re under attack by spreading fear and division is actually “taking Christ out of Christmas.” If we’re truly convicted by the grace of God and have a changed heart in Christ, we shouldn’t be led to passive aggressive or self-righteous verbal (or worse) attacks on others.
Instead, we as parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, pastors, church members, and Christians need to show the world what it means to be a follower of Jesus – show them love and compassion. It is up to each of us to “keep Christ in Christmas” by our words and actions (and to keep our middle fingers to ourselves, especially when we have magnetic evangelism on the back of our vehicles).
Go and keep Christ in Christmas. Merry Christmas.