Sunday night my beautiful Bride and I attended the Ecumenical Choir concert here in Evansville. For 29 years members of a dozen churches throughout the area have gotten together to raise their voices together to celebrate Christmas. This year’s concert was typical of them all. It was an hour and a half of stirring harmony and touching message. There was true emotion in those forty faces as they sang in celebration and praise in the best way they knew how.
And it dawned on me partway through the cantata that made up the second half of the concert. We don’t need Target to wish us a “Merry Christmas,” and we surely don’t need Bill O’Reilly to defend it. The spirit of Christmas is in what we make of it, not in the cynical ravings of the intolerant.
It is not so many years ago that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell stood up to call for dollars, “Send in your money. Christmas is under attack. The big stores have over-commercialized Christmas and we need to put Christ back in Christmas.” Now that stores have taken the steps to stop using the name of the Savior to sell toasters and salsa the money machine has cranked up again. “Send in your dollars to save Christmas. The merchants are ignoring us”
I have some news for O’Reilly and his ilk. Christmas is not celebrated at CostCo or Wal-Mart. Retailers are structured only to worship the dollars that people of all faiths and of none bring through the door. If Target or Macy’s can bring in a few more sales by telling folks to “Gather Round,” rather than saying, “Merry Christmas,” they have the right to do so. They are no more compelled to celebrate Christmas than the firm of Scrooge and Marley was.
Christmas is not under attack. You have the right to shout “Merry Christmas” from your street side window if you wish. Your neighbor also has the right to celebrate whatever holiday she wishes to whether that’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. If your neighbor wishes to sit in a darkened house and ignore the end of year festivities altogether he has that right as well.
My gall rose Sunday night to think of the disrespect shown to the holiday by those who profit from its sham defense. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in the hearts of people. If they share it in a way that can make a lapsed Lutheran a little misty they don’t need talking heads on Fox News to defend it. The Spirit of Christmas is strong enough to last through the bloviation of its defenders. It will not be diminished by those who cynically use it to tap the wallets of people already led into fear. It certainly doesn’t require JC Penney to have a sign over the display of Packer golf towels to remain strong.
The Spirit of Christmas rises and falls on the voices of those who share it. Sunday night in Evansville it soared to the heavens.