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December 11, 2007

Guest Commentary: Would Jesus shop at Christmas?

’Tis the season to go crazy.  ’Tis also the season for people like me to rant about how crass and commercialized the Christmas (as we call it in my circles) season is, how overwrought and high-strung we’ve become, and how we all need to resolve, in the words of The Dude, to “Just take it easy, man.”I’m a hypocrite, of course. As a minister of a very active church, I am part of the system that feeds this addiction to frenetic Christmas activities. After all, busyness denotes importance and energy and life — all qualities we want identified with our institution, right?When will I learn?When will we hear the story we tell in between our endless parties, the one about a quiet, unassuming entry of mystery into the world, which crystallized people’s thoughts upon hope, peace, love and joy?The last thing the world needs is another person (Christian, Muslim, Jew, secular, whatever) getting nutty over holiday obligations and deadlines.What the world needs is love, mutual respect, patience, peacefulness, compassion, passion, justice, deference, laughter, family time, time for strangers, forgiveness, long conversations, honesty, mercy, naps, sharing, kindness, understanding, story time, free time, safe common places where we can interact.We don’t need right-wing Christians getting all snotty when a clerk wishes them  “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” as if Christians held a patent on this confluence of Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and the end of the calendar year season of celebration. Someone needs to call an end to this silly crusade.We also don’t need left-wing Christians doing more analyses and acting all defensive about the fact that they’re now a minority religious voice. Get over it and do something.What the world needs is tangible expressions of love.Before Christianity was claimed and co-opted for personal and national gain, and before it became a badge of exclusion, its message was a bit easier to hear: Something unique happens when the foundational love of creation finds a home in a flesh and blood human, who then lives out this mystery with all of his (or her) heart and life.Last year I got in a lot of hot water for appearing in a national TV ad asking “Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?” People took offense.I wonder what would have happened if I’d simply asked, “Would Jesus shop at Christmas?”Well, would he? Would Jesus try to show someone how much he loves them by buying them a new yard trimmer? Or a sweater? Or a new piece of technology?What the world needs is hope, peace, love, joy. I’ve looked; these aren’t for sale in the malls, the catalogues or online. We’ll each have to make our own and package them in our own skin. Joseph Phelps is pastor of Highland Baptist Church at Grinstead and Cherokee Road. Contact him at www.hbclouisville.org