Selling the Christchild

Dear Holiday Hecklers,

I’ve been somewhat amused over the past several years as stores have told their employees they should not say "Merry Christmas," but instead greet customers with "Happy Holidays." This, of course, ignores the fact that the derivation of "holiday" is a linguistic mash-up of "Holy Days"; but because the name of Christ is in "Christmas Tree," for a brief while some stores called them "Holiday Trees," as if shifting the name will maximize sales among Christ haters while not jeopardizing robust receipts from traditional Christians. Perhaps we are all generically Holians? 

About a decade ago Wal-Mart renamed “The Christmas Shop” as “The Holiday Shop.” The Christian right howled that the secularization of the ornament aisle was proof of some liberal conspiracy squeezing Christ right out of the fourth quarter earnings report. So the following year, Wal-Mart shifted back. I recently read an article claiming, due to the current political climate, that 60% more merchandise will carry the word Christmas this year. Fortunately for us believers, we can now proudly proclaim the reason for the season as “Christmas Shop,” with substantial savings in every aisle. Not to worry--the trend of renewed faith is not shallow; corporate spokespeople from Macy’s, Kohl’s and Walgreens have assured us that they are following suit. Give me a break!

I remember columnist Al Lewis in The Denver Post wrote a few Christmases back, “Retailers who say ‘Happy Holidays’ are only trying to be inclusive. They don’t care what religion their customers believe. They just want the money.”

The liturgical season of Advent began yesterday, December 2. Advent kicks off on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This year FPCLG attempted to pack our aisles by offering free Eucharist! I’m still waiting to hear if the freebie helped with offering receipts.

It’s supposed to be a time to prepare our hearts and our lives for the Christ child. The word advent comes from the Latin adventur, which means "arrival." During Advent our services include a short ceremony, the lighting of one candle each of the four Sundays. The Advent wreath is made in a circle representing God's unending love. Evergreen branches around the wreath remind us of everlasting life with Jesus Christ. The wreath consists of four candles, three purple (the color of both mourning and royalty) and one rose (the joy of Mary candle, the purity of white mixed with the violet of sorrow). On Christmas Eve a white candle in the center of the wreath will be lit to represent the birth of Jesus.  

The purpose of this season is to reflect on the end of things and the hope that does not end. Historically, Advent was a season of penance for confession, fasting and prayer in preparation for the glorious news of Christ’s birth. If we lived in a deeply Christian world, Wal-Mart would care less about reactions to greetings and more about their penance supplies. I’ll have to check the fasting aisle at Walgreens or pick up a nice confession tie at Kohl’s. Anyway, I digress.

I would suggest that perhaps capturing the real meaning of the season requires us to turn to the text. I mean, of course, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Therein, Dr. Seuss writes,

“The Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: ‘How could it be so?’
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
‘Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!’”

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday [Christmas] Season, with slightly cynical joy, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan B. Krogh
Your Pastor