Christmas at Ground Zero

(The title for today’s blog entry, by the way, comes from the excellent song by Weird Al Yankovic (well, they all are excellent, really, he’s a musical genius), “Christmas at Ground Zero” from 1986)

Onward Christian soldiers! There’s been a war on Christmas every year and They want to eliminate the Reason for the Season! They great you with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”! They don’t put up any Christmas trees! They don’t have any Christmas concerts! They say “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”! This is against everything Christians stand for!

Except it isn’t.

In the Bible, the birth of Jesus was a very low-key affair. He was born not as an important person, but as a child of a poor family. There were announcements (by angels) and gifts (by the Magi), but only some shepherds heard the announcement and the gifts were to recognize him as King and to mark his suffering ahead (whereas we give gifts because Aunt Barbara really likes gourmet coffee).

Oh, and “Merry Christmas” isn’t even in the Bible. (Perhaps that should be boycotted too?)

Yes, 2,000 years later, and we don’t even know with any kind of certainty the birthday of arguably the most important man in history (hey, our calendars don’t start at 1 because the Roman senator Lucius Junius Gallio Annaenus was born that year), we don’t know what year he was born (general consensus is 4 BC, but it’s been dated to anywhere in the last decade BC), and there’s even less agreement on the time of year (never mind the exact month and day) He was born. We are never commanded to remember His birth.

Yet there are those that take umbrage that we don’t acknowledge Jesus’ birth while at the same time making sure that our halls are decked, that we have the biggest tree, max out the most credit cards for buying the most presents, and that our holiday light show can be seen from space.

But that’s not Jesus.

John Trever / Albuquerque Journal
John Trever / Albuquerque Journal

Christmas is a simple time of reflection.

And this leads me directly to this year’s salvo in the “War on Christmas”. A “popular” pastor on Facebook and YouTube has mentioned that cups at Starbucks don’t have any Christmas decorations on them. No snowflakes, no trees, no reindeer, nothing to remind us that it’s “Christmas” (well, what we’ve turned into “Christmas”. Maybe “Santamas” since, as I mentioned before, what was on the cups before don’t have anything to do with Christ’s birth either?).

It’s just plain red.

But maybe this year, Starbucks got it right.

Christmas isn’t about trees, about gifts, about reindeer and snowflakes on coffee cups. It’s not about spending the money and decking the halls. It’s not about making sure that you wish people a “Merry Christmas” to remind them that it’s Christ.

That’s not how Jesus’ birth was celebrated at the time.

That’s now how Jesus’ birth was celebrated during His life – most likely it wasn’t even celebrated at all.

Instead, it is about simplicity.

God came.

A simple red cup, stripped of all the extras that we added on.

Just like Jesus.

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