This Christmas we may need to re-write one of our most familiar holiday songs. Instead of, “‘Tis the season to be jolly,” it may be necessary to sing “‘Tis the season to be silly.”
The silliness in question comes at the hands of a group calling itself the Committee to Save Merry Christmas. The California-based group is organizing a national boycott against Macy’s and it’s affiliated Federated Department Stores for the 2004 Christmas season.
Why, you may ask, would anyone wanting to save Merry Christmas launch an attack on the department store that practically invented Christmas—well, at least Christmas the way we do it in America? You will recall that Macy’s was the setting for the film “Miracle on 34th Street,” which portrayed what would happen if the real Santa Claus came to town.
But those days are gone. While many Christians worry each year about taking Christ out of Christmas, the Committee to Save Merry Christmas has charged Macy’s with trying to remove Christmas from Christmas.
In a statement distributed by the Christian Wire Service, the committee says, “With the recent president election showing political correctness is offending millions of Americans, the Committee to Save Merry Christmas today announced a national boycott against Macy’s and Federated Department Stores for the 2004 season.”
The statement continued, “Macy’s and Federated have ignored several requests that ‘Merry Christmas’ signs be returned and posted in Federated stores and that their advertising both acknowledge and respect the time-honored phrase, ‘Merry Christmas.'”
The charge comes as Macy’s and several of its affiliates have chosen to use less religious slogans such as “happy holidays,” or “season’s greetings.” Macy’s denies trying to take Christmas out of Christmas. Instead, according to a statement issued by the company, Macy’s and some other of their stores are trying to be “more reflective of the multicultural society in which we live today.”
What makes all of this silly, of course, is the idea that forcing a retailer to restore the phrase “Merry Christmas” to its marketing strategy somehow promotes Christianity. What it actually does is make Christians look like bullies who don’t seem to care that we share the country with people of other faiths.
It is also silly for Christians to act like a persecuted minority. Christians appear to have dominated at the polls in the recent election. There are Christian churches on every corner; the Bible remains the best selling book of all time, and a sitting president acknowledges that Jesus is his favorite political philosopher.
If Christians are having trouble getting their message out with all that, Macy’s is probably not going to be much help anyway.
If the Committee to Save Merry Christmas really wants to save Christmas, they might want to begin by remembering the true message of Christmas. Christians have traditionally believed that at the first Christmas God entered the world as a human being. In other words, when it was time to impact the world in some ultimate fashion, God chose the humility and vulnerability of an infant.
Excuse me, but there is neither humility nor vulnerability in a national boycott.
And Jesus’ arrival in the world had particular significance for the poor. Maybe instead of worrying how our message is playing on 34th Street, we should be concerned how our message sounds to the poor and the hungry in the world today.
But, ’tis the season to be silly. And on earth, dissension and bickering over who has the biggest sign.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.