Category Archives: Christmas

The War on Christmas is Over

The U.S. war with Japan came to an abrupt end when two powerful bombs were dropped on the island nation, and thousands were killed. It was unmistakable that the only alternative to surrender was death. Some wars end that way—with a big bang. Other times, wars just kind of fizzle out. People look around and realize there is no longer any reason to fight.

There has been an enormous amount of talk the past few years about the War on Christmas. To be totally honest, the only ones I hear talking about it are a few sour headed Christians who seem to be upset that the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate Christ at Christmas. Apparently, Happy Holidays don’t belong in their world.War on Christmas

I started to think about this so-called “War on Christmas,” and it dawned on me that the war is already over. I looked around and paid attention to the evidence, and sure enough, it appears the Christians have lost the war.

As an observer of culture, this is my list of evidence that Christians have lost the War on Christmas:

  1. Christmas Eve services at church begin as early as 1:00, or in some cases this year, on Sunday the 23rd. If I’m not mistaken, the word “eve” refers to the evening before an event. Anything that happens before 6:00 pm on the 24th is not an evening event. Of course, the reason we start so early is that people have too much other stuff to do on Christmas Eve—Santa is on the way. A Christmas Eve service in the early afternoon is like an Easter Sunday service on Saturday—oh wait, some already do that as well.
  2. The highlight of Christmas is not Christ but giving gifts to one another. Use all the metaphorical language you like, but the bottom line is that giving gifts to one another at Christmas is not a representation of God’s gift to us.
  3. Jesus is an extremely minor part of the way we do Christmas. Most of our attention is given to family, decorations, food, gifts, shopping, and all the other stuff that fills our malls our family rooms.
  4. Church Christmas programs are over in early December because people don’t have time as Christmas day draws near.

If you think that Christians haven’t already lost the War on Christmas, you are like the Japanese soldiers found hiding in island caves two decades after Hiroshima. You haven’t heard the news that we surrendered years ago. Before you post that next meme about the War on Christmas, make sure Christ is more than an afterthought during your celebration.

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Three Months of Christmas

Christmas Story – 2017

When I was kid… Don’t you love it when an old person begins a story with those words? You prepare yourself for a lecture about the good old days and when times were simple and better followed by a lecture about the terrible condition of the world today. I know you don’t want to hear that and neither do it.

But, when I was a kid one of the best things about Christmas happened sometime in October, perhaps as early as September some years. It was the arrival of the annual Sears Christmas Catalog. It later became known as the Sears Christmas Wish Book, but it was originally called a catalog.Sears

We actually received two catalogs from Sears every year. Earlier, perhaps in the spring, I’m not sure, we received a large one about the size of a big city phone book. It had everything imaginable for a family and home except for toys. Without the toys, the big catalog was of little interest. I’ll confess when I got older and became a teenager the big catalog had a little more fascination for me. The section with women’s underwear was the closest I ever came to dirty magazines at our house.

But about two-thirds of the pages of the one that arrived in the fall consisted of toys. It had pictures of every toy we had ever heard of and thousands of toys we didn’t even know existed. Each toy was represented with a bright colored photo followed by a paragraph or two description of what the toy was all about. The special toys were featured in photos with kids playing with them.

We always knew that catalog was on the way when the weather started to cool down for the winter. I don’t know about other kids, but in our family, we were not allowed to look at the mail before Daddy and Mama. It’s not clear if they were hiding stuff from us but I never gave it a second thought; that’s just the way it was.

When the Sears Christmas Catalog arrived, Mama would bring it to us. It had a brown wrap around the outside and tearing that away was as exciting as opening any gift. My sister and I would study it for hours. I’m sure I spent more time with it that she ever did. I say I’m sure about that, but I don’t really know. I never paid much attention to what she was doing when I wasn’t involved. I do know that I spent many hours with the book. So much so that by early December the pages in the toy section were dog-eared and crinkled.

Thumbing through the pages was living in a fantasy world where every dream can be a reality. I drove the electric race cars around the track that looked like it stretched for miles. I was a fearless driver, but my car never flew off the tracks. I picked out colors for all the cars and trucks I wanted.

I also remember playing with the largest Erector Set you could buy. An Erector Set was a fascinating toy for a kid. It consisted of thin metal slats with a row of drilled holes arranged like button holes on a shirt. I understand they still have them today but now they consist of a bunch of plastic pieces rather than all metal. It had a box filled with small nuts and bolts that you could insert through the holes and attach the metal slats together. With a vivid imagination, you could build a house or a windmill or some other structure. The catalog always featured the sets with small electric engines to be used for trains, large cranes, or other movable pieces. In my mind, I built complete cities using the sets that could be ordered from Sears. It was kind of like Sim City without the electronics.

There was always a piece of notebook paper, and a pencil stuck between the pages of the catalog. It was there so I could make a list of the things I especially wanted from the catalog. I don’t remember ever believing in Santa, so I was making the list for Mama and Daddy. There were many entries and almost an equal number of erasure marks on my paper because I knew I had to narrow it down to one or two items. Over the three months exegeting that catalog, my favorites changed numerous times.

The reason my list could only contain one or two items was because I knew that’s the most I would ever get. That’s why I didn’t really believe in Santa. If everything they said about him was true, then I was getting cheated somehow. We hung up Christmas stockings, usually Daddy’s because they were larger, but when we charged into the living room on Christmas morning the only things in those stockings were the fruit and nuts that had been displayed on the dining table for the past few days. That stuff didn’t come from a joyous fat bearded man who gave out free gifts.

It was even quite likely I would not even receive the gift at the top of my Christmas wish list tucked carefully between the pages of the catalog. We didn’t have much money in those days, so Christmas morning typically consisted of one nice present, a package of underwear (for some reason, Santa was always practical at our house), and maybe a book to read or a small toy of some kind.

I discovered years later in a conversation with Daddy that the reason we received the Sears Catalogs was because they bought Christmas gifts with a Sears credit card. They could pay it off over the next couple of months, which was not an easy feat for them. I was totally surprised by this revelation because I never knew Mama and Daddy ever had a credit card. Daddy was a fulltime pastor of a small church, and they paid him $100 per month. There were other perks like an occasional chicken he had to kill, vegetables from the garden Mama had to can, and a few times a month an invite to someone’s house for Sunday dinner.

Even though I knew the Sears Christmas Catalog did not mean all those toys would magically appear under our tree on Christmas morning, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of endlessly thumbing through the pages. Although the toys seldom arrived, having the catalog and a vivid imagination meant that my Christmas began in October with a gift from the mailman and lasted into the next year.

Sears doesn’t publish the Wish Book any longer. In fact, nearest I can tell they stopped twenty-four or twenty-five years ago. We don’t need it any longer now that we have eBay, Amazon, and countless other suppliers. Finding what you want is much easier nowadays—just a couple of clicks, and it arrives on your doorstep two days later.

Not only are the catalogs not available, we no longer need an imagination. Kids spend countless hours watching stuff but not imagining stuff. If they want to know what it’s like to play with a toy, just find a video of other kids doing it. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a different thing.

I wonder how many kids today would be content with one gift, not even off the top of their list. Perhaps the reason they would be dissatisfied is because they haven’t had the opportunity of playing with numerous gifts for the past few months in their imagination. I don’t recall ever being disappointed with Christmas. I loved everything about it, even cracking open the walnuts retrieved from Daddy’s stocking.

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The Greatest Christmas Gift

Leaving church on Sunday morning with a new outlook on life was not a common experience for Walter. He normally ended the hour of worship with a growling stomach and acute anxiety that he had missed the opening kickoff. But, today was different. Something the preacher said captured his attention.

He didn’t mind going to church, even though he would not classify himself as a steadfast believer. Walter had no doubts about the existence of God, and he rarely disagreed with anything spoken from the pulpit; he just had other interests. He enjoyed church because he loved sitting next to Sally. She was the love of his life, the apple of his eye, and every other cliché you can think of. More often than not, they would even hold hands for a good portion of the hour.

The amazing thing of Walter’s strong affection for Sally is that they were not young teenagers in love. Walter and Sally had been married for forty-two years. Yet, he was just as anxious to sit at her side as he had been when they first met as college freshmen. The years had brought them closer. In fact, since Walter retired six months ago, they spent most of their time together, and he had never been happier.Christmas-Gift

It was the first Sunday of Advent, a time that Walter always enjoyed. He loved everything about Christmas, especially the gifts. For Walter, giving a present was a process, including shopping, wrapping, hiding, and opening. His greatest joy every Christmas morning was to watch expressions as family and friends opened the gift he meticulously picked for them. For Walter, the first Sunday of Advent was the signal that Christmas was almost here.

The sermon by Rev. Wilson was about the gift of God that we celebrate at Christmas. He pounded home the notion that God’s gift was the greatest ever. He defined that gift as loving those who are unlovable. Rev. Wilson was not known for his oratory skills, but whenever he worked at it, he could be as convincing as any car salesman pushing an extended warranty.

Whatever he said on Sunday, he certainly captured Walter’s attention. In spite of the fact that Walter had been attending church for decades and that he had heard hundreds of Christmas sermons, something about the words of Rev. Wilson captured his interest. Like a child entering a toy store, Walter’s mind was racing with possibilities.

He decided that Christmas was about loving the unlovable. This was revolutionary to Walter. He had spent his whole life giving to those he loved. He could not remember ever giving a present to someone who was unlovable. He had never even given it a moment’s thought.

Walter and Sally put on their coats as they walked toward the church foyer. Leaving church was always tedious for Walter because Sally liked to stop and visit with too many people. She was accustomed to Walter tugging on her sleeve like a bored child. On this Sunday, Walter walked off and left Sally. He was in a hurry to speak to Rev. Wilson.

Waiting his turn in line with the complimenters and complainers, Walter finally reached the preacher. Walter stretched out with both arms and grabbed the Reverend’s hand.

“Pastor, you really spoke to me today,” he blurted out as he shook the minister’s hand like a rag doll.

“Thank you, Walter,” said Rev. Wilson in a tentative voice, “I was just trying to say what God laid on my heart.” He was somewhat stunned because he did not remember his words ever having an impact on Walter before.

Almost before Rev. Wilson finished his sentence, Walter said, “Pastor, I’ve got an idea about Christmas. You convinced me that Christmas is about loving the unlovable. That’s what I am going to do!”

Not sure what Walter had in mind, Rev. Wilson said, “That’s good to hear Walter. It’s always good to know that someone is listening when I preach.”

“Pastor, this is my plan. I’m going to find the most unlovable person in town, and I’m going to love them. That will be my Christmas present to them.”

You could still hear some skepticism, or perhaps it was simply reservation in Rev. Wilson’s voice, “That’s great Walter. I’ll be glad to help. Just let me know what I can do.”

Walter didn’t hear the last few words because he had already turned to look for Sally. She was finishing her conversation as Walter seized her arm and escorted her out the front door toward the parking lot.

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