We all understood that for many of us, the most important holiday in the aforementioned period was Christmas but we didn't feel a need to make it an issue because we also understood that everyone was not a Christian. Then something happened. Someone decided that the word "holiday" was an assault on Christianity and they found lots of people who agreed, that yes, that's what it was...an assault on Christianity.
Last year the debate over the use of the H-word brought national attention to my hometown. It all started when one of our US Senators decided he would not ride his horse in what was formerly known as the Christmas Parade of Lights but had been renamed (a year earlier, a point he evidently failed to notice) the Holiday Parade of Lights.
The controversy that followed did not escape Jon Stewart's attention. As Stewart pointed out, Christianity survived the Roman Empire, and it will surely survive the renaming of Tulsa's parade. But goodness me. When Jon Stewart makes fun of the hullabaloo over your parade, you know things have gotten out of hand.
There was a mixed reaction to the parade controversy. There were Christians who sided with the senator, saying they were glad someone was "taking a stand". Other Christians felt that the fact there was a controversy at all over the H-word was an embarrassment.
I leaned towards the latter. I thought the Christian community looked like a petulant 2-year-old who has a toy they don't want to share. There are two problems with that. One is that Jesus does not "belong" to His followers. We belong to Him. The second problem is that we are called to tell others about Christ, and I believe that Christmas is a time when some are more open to the message of a light shining in the darkness of their lives. That message is often drowned out by Christians who are busy screaming, "Mine!" every December. There are Christians who bristle at the inclusiveness of the word "holiday" but if we're called to share Christ, doesn't He demand inclusiveness?
|Source: Microsoft Clip Art|
Indeed, I think there are times when Christ would probably just as soon we left His name out of things that don't really honor Him, at all. As much as our economy is driven by consumerism, and knowing that businesses rely on Christmas shopping to make a profit, I don't think Christ feels particularly honored when we use the celebration of His birth as an excuse for extravagant giving in order to impress others. I don't think He feels glorified by Christmas parties that have nothing to do with God's love for us. I don't think He is impressed when we "stand up for Him" in a way that builds walls that prevent others from coming to Him. (While I hesitate to say how Jesus would respond to those of us who profess to follow Him but who build walls to keep others away, I suspect it would start with the phrase, "Woe to you...")
Which brings me back to the parade. This year, there will be competing parades, held on the same night and at the same time. The Holiday Parade of Lights will be held downtown, as it always has been.
There will also be a "Christmas parade", which will be held at a local shopping center. Supporters of the Christmas parade say they will attend because the parade has honored Christ in its name. However, according to the Tulsa Beacon, the location was selected "because there are almost no retail shops downtown." Really? I didn't realize retail shops were required in order to honor Christ. An organizer - who happens to be running for office - went on to say, "Our new...shopping center is becoming the more frequent first choice for shoppers. We have chosen this location for our first (hopefully of many) annual Christmas parade." Is it me, or does this parade seem to be about retail businesses? There's nothing wrong with a parade being centered around shopping, that's how our downtown parade began back when most stores were located downtown. But don't pretend it's something spiritual when clearly, it's not.
May you experience the love of Christ throughout this holiday season.
Until next time,
My prayers is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one -- I in them and you in me -- so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
~ John 17:20-23
~ John 17:20-23