Christmas and the Holy Name.

It seems some Christians are feeling full of beans and vinegar, this Christmas, and they’re takin’ it to the business streets and basically saying, “Pony up wit’ da “Merry Christmases”, or we’re shoppin’ at the Wal-Mart!” (Hattip to Polipundit.

Now, I’ve mentioned that we have a little bit of this brewing in our own household as younger son Buster takes a stand. But I do think this whole issue of hotheaded insistance on saying the words “Merry Christmas” needs some looking at.

I do understand some of the frustration out there. In terms of dollars and cents, the merchants of America have the grotesque over-commercialization of Christmas – and only Christmas – to thank for their fat black end-of-year ledger entries, and this is nothing new. Think of that wonderful old James Stewart movie, “The Shop Around the Corner.” Christmas spending has always been a boon to shopkeepers.

These days folks are feeling a little edgy. They see Christmas music – and only Christmas music – being kept off the school “winter” programs. They see Christmas symbols – and only Christmas symbols – being excluded from some civic “holiday” displays or parades. They see the downright hysterics some corporations are falling into as they attempt to have “end of the year” parties and give “year end” bonuses that in no way mention Christmas. “Welcome to our party celebrating nothing in particular. Here is your end-of-year bonus, given for no particular reason at a time of the year when you may need extra money, for no particular cause.”

And too, they have to put up with this sort of condescending snottiness, “Unfortunately, some of the Christian pressure groups seem to have it backwards.” He adds: “I think it’s fair to say it’s a mistaken notion that they have a mandate to put more nativity scenes up because George Bush was elected.”

Yes, boys and girls. You’re simply feeling all swaggery and cowboyish, and lookin’ for a Texas fight, because of George W. Bush’s re-election. As you know, everything is Bush’s fault, even your misplaced hurt feelings.

It is true, I think, that some Christians are feeling a little swaggery, a little empowered, by the sheer numbers represented in this year’s election, and it’s possible that some are trying to muscle the issue a bit. But I think it’s more than simply feeling “man-dated.”

The Christians are feeling oppressed, and they’re feeling frustrated. They note that the elites on the left don’t like to mention Christmas and that this dislike has filtered down and through communities, intimidating many into falling in lockstep and abandoning Christmas – often to simply avoid a visit from the ACLU. Rather than deal with one family that might object to a Christmas Tree, they’re simply telling 500 families to call them “Community Trees” and have done with it.

That is the thing that is aggravating Christians and fueling this whole issue: a sense the Christians have that folks in leadership positions, browbeaten by special-interest groups for decades, simply haven’t the heart or the energy to stand up to more browbeating. Having first defended, then pandered to, every other formerly neglected group, they just shudder at the thought of having to do it some more, and they figure the Christians can fight their own battles.

And that’s what is happening. The Christians are frustrated and venting that frustration where they believe it will make a difference: at the business districts.

In truth, I bet if you polled most Christians and asked them if they are terribly offended by a “Happy Holidays” versus a “Merry Christmas” they would say they don’t really give a crapola. I, myself, like to wish folks a good whatever-holiday-they-happen-to-celebrate, if I know for certain what that holiday is. If I know a neighbor is Jewish, I will say “Happy Hannukah.” If I know she is a Kwanzite, I’ll say “Have a good Kwanzaa.” If I don’t know what someone celebrates, I’m happy to say “Happy Holidays” because I still want to wish everyone a good time. Can’t help it, ‘sa kinda gal I am!

But I do understand why some feel that this dismissal of “Merry Christmas” from the common language portends a more aggressive dismissal of Christians in general, down the road. That sounds paranoid, but in a world where sincere Catholics are routinely denied judgeships by Congress – where Chuck Schumer can have “concerns” about Christians who have “deeply held beliefs,” and keep able, qualified people from serving – well, a little paranoia might be warranted.

Still, I’m not into this boycotting idea. Insisting that a merchant use the word “Christmas” or risk losing your business doesn’t strike me as something Christ would do. I’m not even sure that represents a healthy Christian Conscience.

I know, I know, I’ll hear now from Christians who are quick to remind me that Jesus was no pansy-assed pacifist, that he took the rope, made a whip and drove the moneychangers from the temple, knocked over the tables, yadda, yadda…I know scripture too, thanks. But I think that particular passage might be more analogous to the commercialism which has overrun the sacred in this season.

We’re not supposed to be awaiting the Birth of Christ by buying everything in site, and giving in to that grasping materialism that tempts us all year long. In these days of Advent, our minds are supposed to be turned inward, not outward, as we pray for, ask for, long for the filling of our hearts with the love of Christ, with the joy and promise of the Incarnation. We should be caught in wonder, not at the “great savings and low, low prices at Crazy Larry’s” but by this one tremendous, fact: The Word was made flesh and set his tent among us; we have seen his glory! Nothing else should matter beyond THAT great saving!

I am not in favor of boycotting merchants until they obey our demand that they utter the name of Christ. My 15 year old is doing it…but he is 15 years old.

In our age and in our wisdom, better we should turn away from the stores not in anger, but in contemplation. There are ten days left before Christmas. I cannot bring myself to spend those days shaking a fist and looking for ways to be insulted. They don’t want to say “Christmas?” They don’t want to utter the Holy Name? I’m not surprised – we are living in a distracted and deeply darkened world. Better I should suffer a bit for His name, rather than foist it on those who will only spit it back.

Cast not pearls before swine, nor give Holy Things to the dogs. Let the secular world keep its secular “holidays.” We, like Scrooge, are meant to keep Christ-mas in our hearts, all the year.

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