Note To Readers: I am fully aware as I write these words that not everyone will agree with me on this topic regardless what position I take. I am OK with that. If this column causes you to respectfully re-think your position, my mission is accomplished, whether you agree with my position or not.
Although some jump-started the Christmas theme weeks ago, according to the Advent calendar the season officially begins today. Christmas lights are appearing in sufficient numbers to make street lighting redundant. Christmas music is replacing almost all other tunes and Christmas displays featuring everything from reindeer and snowmen to Baby Jesus are popping up on front lawns.
Ironically, in this season of peace and goodwill, the fighting will also begin any day now. Groups opposed to any public display of religion will be vigilantly examining every street corner ready to launch a protest if anything "too spiritual" occurs on public property or with the aid of public dollars. Public school programs will be examined with a fine-toothed comb to ensure no note is played or sung that has anything Christian in its background. Other groups, primarily retailers, will scrutinize every song played on their PA systems and each display in their store windows to ensure ultimate political correctness. Sadly, many of them will fail to recognize that the blandness of their neutrality is what is really offensive to many.
Conversely, Christians will launch protests and urge boycotts of retailers who choose to use the term "Xmas," or who refuse to allow employees to wish customers a hearty "Merry Christmas." Others will write an endless stream of letters to editors insisting that we are a Christian nation and those who don't like it should jolly well go back to where they came from.
Really? Is this the kind of Christmas any of us want to celebrate?
For several years, I have observed the deteriorating "spirit" of Christmas as battles have raged over how to celebrate a religious event like Christmas in a pluralistic society. Folks, this one should not be that difficult to figure out.
Those of us who embrace the Christian faith need to learn to relax. We need to quit taking every sign or song personally. We need to imitate the calm demeanor of Jesus, Who, when a group attempted to get Him embroiled in a clash between faith and society, simply said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." We have the option of protesting and boycotting every insult or to whole-heartedly celebrate the incredible truths of Christmas in our hearts, homes, churches and in the parties we host. To me, that decision is a no-brainer.
To the opponents of Christmas and any religious connotation it contains, I pose two questions: First, what if you win? Will life in Canada really be richer and fuller if all that is religious is purged from our landscape? Will Christmas be better without Silent Night, Joy To The World and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear? Second, is it possible that there is some hypocrisy in your protest? How one can simultaneously encourage the expression of First Nation beliefs and practices, or expressions of other world religions as a symbol of our rich, multicultural heritage, yet seek to expunge all expression of the Christian faith from public view is a mystery to me. Perhaps tolerance is a two-way street.
Finally, to the political correctness police: it may be time to get a life. The vast majority of Canadians are tired of the ceaseless insanity. Calling it a Christmas Tree or wishing someone Merry Christmas is hardly offensive to anyone who isn't looking to be offended.
Many of my Jewish friends are among the first to wish me a Merry Christmas most years. The belief that expressions like these are offensive, or in some way harmful, is a myth.
Each year, about the time the lights really start to glimmer and the beautiful displays appear all around town, the letters and protests also start.
Maybe this year, if everyone tries, we can do better.
- Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; National Pastor with The Leadership Centre/Willow Creek Canada and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets.