Is it just me or are people more hysterical than usual about Christmas?

First there is the grand debate set off when some of the nation’s most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” … “I see this in many ways as a capitulation to narcissism, the self-centered, me-first, I’m going to put me and my immediate family first agenda of the larger culture,” said Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. “If Christianity is an evangelistic religion, then what kind of message is this sending to the larger culture – that worship is an optional extra?”

I didn’t have a big issue with this, probably because we (The Dwelling Place) decided to not be open. That stems from a few things: we’re in the process of moving into a building (and we figure that the people whose home we are currently meeting in wouldn’t want us dropping in on their Christmas); and since we want to be about slowing people’s lives down, why not give them the opportunity to do Christmas (guilt free) with their family. Their primary church.

Scot McKnight put it this way in his blog: My suggestion is this: let’s be a little more charitable in light of what the NT does and does not say. Let’s permit our brothers and sisters, once every seven years, to make decisions that we might not approve of but know that they answer to God, that we answer to God, that it is about worship of God and incarnating the gospel in our world for the good of others and the world.

For that matter, John H. Armstrong comes at the matter from a different way. He says let’s ask a question at the heart of the discussion: Does the NT teach a Sunday morning worship service? Well, the evidence isn’t what some are making it out to be. We need to be fair here: there is a distinction between what is taught and what is mentioned or hinted at as something practiced. And there is no clear text legislating that Christians are to meet for worship on a Sunday morning … how can so many conservative Christians be so troubled about massive retail chains (making billions of dollars by associating year-end sales with the birth of Jesus) saying, “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” while many of our largest conservative churches will close on Christmas Day? And how can we keep stressing “family values” while we downplay the family Jesus clearly told his disciples mattered most-the family of those who are his brothers and sisters.

From there, the war takes on a whole new level of the surreal.

Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel is running a “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” and James Dobson’s Alliance Defense Fund is running a “Christmas Project.” Countless hours and thousands of dollars are being poured into these efforts.

Bill O’Reilly began a recurring segment on The O’Reilly Factor called “Christmas Under Siege,” joining the American Family Association have joined in to target Target, and other chain stores, for banning employees from wishing customers a “Merry Christmas.” O’Reilly also did a segment with Fox News’ commentator John Gibson, author of the bestselling book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.

And my inbox has been inundated with tales of “the real story of Christmas” from both pagans and Christians alike. Our Christmas service split the difference with a message telling the Christmas story from the perspective of the Magi, you know, the three wise men. The three kings is how they are popularly spun, deflecting the image that they were pagan astrologers who got the dates right and wanted to be in on the whole Messiah thing from the beginning.

Why am I always the last one to get the memos? I want in on this war. Let’s really take it to this secular culture. Their next move may be a campaign to take away weekends from us, since we all know the only reason we have weekends is so that we can observe the Sabbath. Our first offensive should be a campaign waged against the days of the week. We’ve got to get the names changed. I’m tired of paying homage to Norse and Roman deities. First we get the days, then we’ll go after the months.


(Um, Merry Christmas!)

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