Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

Christmas is my favorite season, but as I read the news this past week, there were several accounts that did their best to contribute a proverbial “fly in the ointment” this season. Here are a few of my Christmas peeves in the news:

Christmas News
1. In Tallahassee’s capitol, a holiday decoration was erected to commemorate the season. No, it wasn’t a manger or a Christmas tree. It wasn’t even a spaghetti monster or a satanic display, both of which have previously appeared in the state capitol.

Last year, the capitol was decorated (and I use the term loosely) by:

– the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who displayed a pile of “holy noodles”
– the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who hung a winter solstice banner
– another atheist group, who erected a Festivus pole constructed of beer cans
– the Satanic Temple, who created a display of an angel falling from the sky into flames
– the Florida Prayer Network, who displayed a nativity scene.

This year, there was a single display: a lone Festivus pole. But not just any Festivus pole. A Rainbow Gay Edition of the Festivus pole. Sigh. Yes. A pole championing gay rights representing a fictitious religion invented for laughs on the television comedy Seinfeld.

In the name of peace, the Christian group chose not to display a nativity because of the conflict it generated as other groups demanded space for competing displays. A representative of the Satanic Temple explained, “Without a nativity display we haven’t been properly motivated to apply for a display of our own.”

When I first read this, it made me angry. But I’ve shifted from anger to grief. It’s no longer enough to mock Christianity by denying it. Now what everyone acknowledges to be pure fiction is held up as an equal to Christianity. Can our culture sink any further?

2. In a Time magazine article, “What We Know About When Jesus Was Actually Born,” the author wrote, “The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke are the only accounts of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament. Even accepting their word as the truth, each tells a different story—Luke’s starting in Nazareth and Matthew’s focused solely on events in Bethlehem…”

His implication seems to be that because Matthew and Luke’s accounts are not identical, they are in conflict. Why would the fact that Luke provided additional background which Matthew chose not to include imply a conflict of facts? Even in a contemporary court of law, multiple witnesses are called to provide a complete account by combining various perspectives. Why is Christianity denied the same courtesy?

3. In covering the Christmas eve service of a local megachurch, the Palm Beach Post (December 24th) printed a photo with the following caption (names deleted):

“[Name] performs during a light show at [church]….The performance was part of the family evening Christmas production at the [church].”

Can you guess which words raised my ire? How about performs, show, performance, and production. I understand those who do not share Christian beliefs may not appreciate the difference between worship and performance. But I wonder…how much do we Christians contribute to that error? Are we  so focused on performances and productions that we blur the distinction?

I wonder what might happen if churches and Christians – all of us – focused less on the production aspects of our worship services and more on an overriding sense of worship? What would happen if we were less concerned with refilling coffee cups during worship and more devoted to offering ourselves and our worship to the only One worthy to receive it? What might happen if we all made it more difficult for unbelievers to confuse performance and worship? It might not change anything. Then again, it just might change everything.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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