Richard Brand: More War on Christmas?


It began early this year. It is still two months before Christmas. We have just finished Halloween and have not even begun to talk about Thanksgiving, and already we have people outraged about what is being called a “war on Christmas.”

The latest battle site was Starbuck’s decision to put out simple red cups with their corporate logo on them. Just red cups with no seasonal decorations. No snow flakes, no holly wreaths, no snowmen, no menorah, nothing but their own corporate logo. The response was almost immediate. Starbuck is participating in the war against Christ. They are supporting and encouraging their customers to belittle and ignore “the reason for the season.”

It might be possible to make a case for the fact that the red cups do not have any “seasonal” decorations on them is an attack upon the whole holiday traditions of December. But it seems to be a stretch to claim that removing holly branches, snow flakes, reindeer from their cups in some way attacks the Christmas story of the incarnation. Those decorations have absolutely nothing to do with the story of the birth of Jesus. In fact, the evidence suggests that many of the things we now do as part of our seasonal celebrations have only very recently become part of the holiday activities.

A good case could be made that we have so put so many layers of tradition upon the Christmas story that the story of the birth of Jesus has disappeared from most of the celebrations of Christmas. A young Muslim student at Duke wrote an article about how amazed and appalled she was to see how we have allowed the sacred story to be co-opted and exploited in so many ways. The good news may be that acts like Starbucks maybe a way of making us focus more upon the “real reason for the season.”

It would seem to me that a better case of a war against Christmas is the outrage and opposition to the idea that Christian nations ought to be open and compassionate to the massive number of refugees. At the heart of the birth of Jesus is the story of massacre and political slaughter, with Jesus and his family as refugees fleeing into Egypt. The whole Biblical story constantly talks to the people of God that they are to be kind, gracious, fair, and receptive to the foreigner in their midst because they know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. Their time in Egypt and the time in captivity of Babylon taught them of the pain and suffering of being immigrants and refugees. The real war, the real betrayal of the Christmas story is in the immediate fearful reaction of demanding that no refugees be admitted to our state, that none of the so called “Bible Belt” states have welcomed the resettlement of refugees in their states.

If there is a real war on the story of the birth of Jesus it is seen in the denial and the opposition to the message of the Christ child. Whether or not you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is not nearly as important to the keeping of the Christmas message as the faithful following of the message of the child. It began early this year. It is still two months before Christmas. We have just finished Halloween and have not even begun to talk about Thanksgiving, and already we have people outraged about what is being called a “war on Christmas.”