The White House had a lovely Christmas card this year, though reliably contrarian Sarah Palin was deeply offended at the outrageous inclusion of the family dog: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/sarah_palin_white_house_christ.html. My Christmas well wish didn’t get quite as much press as that of the Obamas, but I guess I should have expected that. Perhaps next year I’ll include my Maltese and see what happens.
My card received several replies from readers. Since my card was simply wishing my readers a Happy Christmas, all the responses did as much in kind which is appropriate and to be expected.
Well, not quite all the responses. Star 2 wrote the following:
Christmas is not about Santa Claus, giving and receiving gifts, decorated evergreen trees, lighted houses, wreaths, mistletoes, parties, singing pagan songs (eg, Jingle Bells, It’s a White Christmas, and Rudolph the Red Nose Raindeer), and strong drink; it is about Christ coming into the world to save sinners.
We will all stand before God one day to be judged for the life we have lived.
If you stand before Him with having all your sins forgiven because you believed on and received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord then you will inhereit eternal life.
If you stand before Him in your sin because you rejected Jesus Christ then you will perish.
I agree with the letter of Star 2’s comments. I am quite sure however that I don’t agree with the implicature — or broader implied meaning — of them. For example, her reference to “pagan songs” suggests a dualistic sanctified vs. secular approach to life which is unbiblical. If Paul can quote “pagan” philosophers in the Areopagus then surely we can sing Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” on the neighbor’s doorstep. And when the neighbor invites us in for a cup of hot buttered rum (strong drink!) we are more than welcome to take a deep swig in the spirit of the season.
But the problem I have with Star 2’s comments is not limited to the unbiblical and legalistic tone of them. The deeper issue is with the need that some conservative Christians have to launch into an evangelistic sermon at any and every opportunity. My problem is that doing this is frequently (and unnecessarily) alienating of the very people the would-be evangelist is aiming to reach.
Think about it like this. Your nephew Raymond is back from his first year of university where he is studying political science. Over the last year Raymond has studied scholars like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Tariq Ali and has returned cynical and embittered toward the Machiavellian nature of the modern nation state. Unaware of this, you invite Raymond to join you and your family for the Fourth of July fireworks in the town park. As you sit on the cool grass watching the beautiful show unfolding in the night sky, Raymond feels the need to give an impromptu lecture on America’s modern history of geopolitics from the infamous 1953 coup in Iran up to the failed search for WMDs in Iraq. It isn’t that you necessarily disagree with what Raymond is saying. It is true that every country has a self-interested policy of foreign engagement which is often inconsistent with the stated values of the leaders and/or electorate. It is just that this isn’t the time for a lecture. This is the time to stretch out on the grass and watch a beautiful display of fireworks with family and your community. And Raymond’s failure to understand that will, if anything, simply further alienate his audience from the potentially valuable points he has to make.
So it is for Star 2’s comments. I appreciate the earnestness with which she wrote them. But not every occasion is an occasion for a fire and brimstone evangelistic sermon. Sometimes it is okay to turn up “White Christmas” on the stereo, pour a cup of hot buttered run, and just say “Merry Christmas.”