Every year, especially around this time, a huge outcry comes from the American Christian church. It basically amounts to, “If you don’t call it Christmas, we will boycott you”! On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward issue. December 25 has been the long celebrated, if not very accurate, date of the birth of Jesus Christ in this world. Now there are many debates about whether Christians should even celebrate this particular holiday, but I am setting aside that issue for now and am asking my readers to do the same. The issue I want to address is the issue of boycotting those companies that choose not to recognize this specific holiday as they cater to the consumer market. The question that needs to be asked is, should Christians participate in this?
In addressing this matter, let us first consider what Christmas is. For the Christian, it is a celebration of the time when God entered into humanity through the Incarnation. When the promise of Isaiah 9:6-7 came to fulfillment, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” When the Holy Spirit overshadowed a young virgin and Jesus became fully God and fully Man. When the Creator of all the universe took on humanity and became as one of us.
Unquestionably, the single most important aspect in history occurred on the hill of Calvary. Without the death, and subsequent resurrection, of Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity, as there is no forgiveness for sin. Yet, Calvary happened because a Child was born in Bethlehem, born in a filthy stable to a poor couple who were outcasts because there were questions about the how Mary really got pregnant. A Child that the local thieves…um, make that local shepherds ran through the streets announcing. A Child that, it seemed, very few people really cared about came into this world, but upon whom all of history would be affected. The very point of the celebration of Christmas centers then around the birth of the single most important figure in all of history, and the the ultimate fulfillment of why He came.
Fast forward to the year 2011 and the celebration of Christmas in America. Thanks to many traditions added over the years, trees and lights adorn our homes. Presents are exchanged in celebration of the season. Families gather together to sing carols and a traditional reading of the birth of Christ. Well, in some homes anyway. The growth of pluralism, post-modernism and political correctness have taught us that not everyone cares to celebrate this time of year because of Jesus’ birth. We are told that alternative beliefs, or even lack of beliefs, are just as important as the birth of Christ. In fact, since the Christian faith is so “intolerant” of other beliefs, it is actually important to denounce the central tenet of this celebration, or at least seriously downplay it, so that others can feel less disenfranchised and enjoy themselves more. After all, the purpose of the season is about love and joy to all mankind.
It did not take long for retailers to recognize that if they wanted to continue to make money from consumers, they had to buy into this system. Since not every person buying gifts was a Christian, they had better go to great lengths to make them feel included. Refusing to transition into this new age of pluralistic celebrations could mean that customers would feel offended and take their business to a more “inclusive” store. “Merry Christmas” became “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. Christmas decorations became Holiday decorations. Stores sanitized themselves of anything remotely “Christian” in order to attract potential customers, thus increasing their bottom line.
It did not take long for Christians to recognize they were being pushed aside in this wave of commercial political correctness. Bumper stickers and signs began popping up which stated “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas” or “Remember the Reason for the Season”. Rather innocuous and harmless efforts to return people’s minds back to the central figure of Christmas (yet rather ineffective given the lack of a true gospel presentation, but I digress). Along the way, someone struck upon an idea. If a store doesn’t want to acknowledge Christ and Christmas, then why spend their money there? After all, if Christians aren’t worth catering to, why bother shopping at that store. In true Christian fashion, the worldly concept of boycotting caught on like wildfire. Before long, Christian organizations began to keep track of who did or did not say “Merry Christmas”. Christians were encouraged to avoid shopping at stores that were not “Christian friendly”. Terse letters were forwarded to companies with dire warnings that unless they changed their ways, Christians would withhold the money expected that year. It is now an annual event for Christians to celebrate the birth of our Savior by threatening companies with boycott unless they play ball our way.
Now, readers are probably catching on at this point where am I going with this, but I would like you to hear me out. How often have you read an article or seen a news report where a small business, run by a Christian, made a business decision that was informed by their beliefs that conflicted with a “protected class” and a boycott/lawsuit ensued. Have you not, rightly, declared, “How dare they? They’re just bullying them into doing what they want”! We have all seen it happen, perhaps you have even heard of a business or organization being shut down because they could not handle the legal costs involved. When we see it being doled out against other Christians, we realize just how cruel the concept is. If someone doesn’t do it their way, you either tow the line or you’re outta here!
So the question for the Christian is, what are we thinking?? At what point did Christ call upon us to use the cruel and mean ways of the world to promote His Name? At one point did we forget that our celebration of Christ was not which stores we would shop at, but to celebrate that promised Messiah, born of a virgin, in a poor household, with parents who were gossiped about, but would turn history on its head because of His death and resurrection for the sins of mankind? When did we forget that His story would not be told on store banners and catalogs, but when we would boldly proclaim the gospel to all those we meet? Did Christ command us to tersely warn people to make sure they celebrate Christmas, or did He call us to lovingly proclaim His gospel so that people would repent and trust in Him for salvation?
It is my suggestion that rather than partake in worldly methods, so we can feel comfortable shopping at stores where we can get the best deal, we take this time to go out into the world and share the glorious gospel of salvation through grace. See, this time of year is important to remember, but not so we can get good deals on presents. It is important for the reason I stated before, without Bethlehem, there is no Calvary. Without Calvary, there is no salvation. Without salvation, there is no hope. Please Christians, stop worrying if the stores are promoting Christmas, it’s not their job. It is ours. Let us spend our energies proclaiming Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. That is the one gift you can give to every single person you meet that really matters anyway.