A few thoughts in these concluding days of Advent - -
For all those folks getting their knickers in a bunch over Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas or whatever - get over it.
C'mon, are their any Jeffersonians out there?
Thomas was so right on this point - there is to be a wall that separates church and state.
That does not mean that people who represent the state can't be religious.
And neither does that mean that the church cannot be involved in matters of the state.
It means there is no "state religion." Our founders knew something about that.
And you know, I'm really o.k. with that.
But somewhere we've lost our way on this point.
And in response to "not wanting to offend" anyone, we do the worst possible thing - we strip the distinctiveness of religious expression into a warm tub of emotion and use words like "the real meaning of the season is giving," or we'll talk about spirit of the season. Or, we'll talk about Happy Holidays.
Well, that's not what the season is about.
If it's Hanukkah we're talking about it is distinct.
It's the "Festival of Lights".
These days are significant for our Jewish sisters and brothers.
If Christians would learn the story of God's provision in the scarcity of the moment, of one day's worth of oil that burned eight affirming God's presence in the face of one's adversaries, we might find some resonant points to our own faith experience.
Do I have to have a nativity scene out on the court square or else Christmas has gone straight to the dogs? No.
Can't there be a place for multi-faith observances of religious tradition? Yes.
And there is.
It begins in our homes and in our houses of worship.
Look, I'm Christian.
Christmas, beyond the cultural trappings that too often enslave me, means something distinctive to me.
Christ is born.
God is with us.
"The Way out of no way" has a story, and it begins in Bethlehem.
What I feel about it is irrelevant.
It is what it is.
If I count myself Christian, I have a bounden duty (that should be matched with my joyful willingness) to proclaim "Gloria in excelsis Deo!"
Where should I be on Christmas Day? Among other places, with my family of faith, in my Church, giving thanks to God for the collision of the Divine with a broken world.
It's far too easy to criticize mega-Churches right now who are not worshipping this Christmas because the holiday falls on the Lord's day.
Yes, it's poor form.
Yes, it shows that convenience yet again trumps faithfulness.
Yes, it shows the incongruity of those congregations who fancy themselves leaders of the 21st century Church by not taking the moment to lead.
And yes, I have to live with the "Dad, do we have to go to Church on Christmas Day?" pleas from my "preacher's kid" children who'd prefer to stay home and play with their gifts, but know that their dad never cancels church on Sunday - ever.
But what this little upset brings into high relief for me, and offers conviction for far too many of us - is that we who are up on our high horses who are worshipping on 12/25/05, but didn't on Christmas Day in 04 and won't in 06 need to shut up in our criticism of others.
The question isn't whether or not we should worship on Christmas Day in 05 because it's a Sunday - but whether we should be worshipping every Christmas Day because it's Christmas Day!
If I'm not willing to honor the day wherever it falls on the calendar, then I really have no right to complain about how we've let Christmas go away.
If Christmas goes away, it's only because those of us charged to observe it let it happen.
And make no mistake, this is not about whether or not a nativity scene can be displayed on the court square.
That's a cop out. It's not the job of the state to keep Christmas "real" for me.
If our varied communities of faith truly honored the day, we wouldn't need to get upset about public nativity scene displays being removed. The culture, the country, is not charged with obligations to the One whose name is claimed.
We who confess Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, are.
It's just that simple.