Call it anything you want but please don’t call it Christmas. Not now. Not yet. Not until the eve of December 24th, which by my calendar is 43 days away.
Until then it’s not Christmas, not really.
I’m still loving mid-November. The yard is buried under a ton of leaves. There’s still a chance we may get one last taste of Indian summer, balmy temps before the first snow falls. I’ve barely made Thanksgiving plans. Haven’t worn a sweater yet. Just put down my storm windows and put away the air conditioner. I haven’t even finished eating the last of the Halloween candy.
Yet a full six weeks out from Christmas and our wacky culture is already kicking into Christmas high gear. TV commercials in September. The Lifetime cable channel aired its first cheesy Christmas movie weeks ago. It was a three hanky a tale about a single mother/father, beaten down by losing a job/getting a divorce/facing terminal illness, who miraculously remembers the true spirit of the season when the neighbors/long lost relatives, arrive on the 24th to save the day. A radio station in Richmond, Virginia began airing Christmas music October 7th . Said radio host Jack Lauterback, “Some people aren't too pleased. One woman even said that she hated us. But that's okay. The Christmas spirit isn't for everyone, sadly.”
And it wouldn’t pre-mature Christmas without the first salvo fired in the culture’s supposed “War on Christmas”, the conspiracy by secular folks and businesses to kill any talk of Jesus’ birthday. Starbucks unveiled its new holiday cup last week, a deep red design devoid of any snowflakes, reindeers or Christmas trees. In response one eggnog overdosing Christian, Jacob Feuerstein, launched a protest, saying the coffee chain, “wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups. That’s why they’re just plain red.”
I can’t make this stuff up.
This would all be very funny if it weren’t so sad, this transformation, conflagration, mash up and take down of Christmas, more and more each year. Christmas. One religious holy day, one day. To remember the birth of a child 2,000 years ago. As a man, he would later teach us about God’s dream of peace, joy, hope and love for the entire world. In response and thanks for this gift, some folks who believe in this story, give to others in gratitude to God for this birth. They feed the hungry. Comfort the lonely. Work for an end to war. Seek out the lost.
And that’s it. That’s Christmas. Nothing more, at least from a faith perspective.
The other stuff? Overblown consumption, a financial hangover on the 26th. Too much food and drink and activities stuffed into too few days to get it all done. Too much pressure to have a “perfect” holiday, whatever that means. Too many hard memories for lots of folks whose losses are magnified in December. Too many arguments about which schools do or do not sing Christmas songs.
It’s enough to give us all holiday indigestion.
I do love Christmas in its right time. Love seeing family and friends. Love the twinkling lights that push back the darkness and warm my heart. Love the time after the 25th when the world stops and it is finally quiet. Love the moral and ethical truths embodied in that little baby boy, who is the center of my faith tradition.
The rest of it all, that other stuff which also labels itself as “Christmas”? For me it is mostly noise, a strictly secular affair. It is fun for so many and so I say “Go for it!” and have fun. Deck the halls. Wear that Santa Claus sweater. Make the party rounds. Give away gifts galore. Dive right in, right now, in November, if you like. If you enjoy making the season last all year long, that’s your right and your privilege. I won’t stand in the way.
Nor will I call it Christmas. That’s on December 24th and 25th and the days after, some 1,042 hours in the future. Until then, I still have some leaves to rake.