Holiday Coffee Cups And Being Thankful

Starbucks cupsAs many know, Starbucks has brought out their holiday cups which do not mention which holiday we’re celebrating. A former pastor named Joshua Feuerstein, who now seems to make his living, according to the Washington Post, by making video rants and DVDs for which he accepts donations, posted his infamous complaint of this year’s cup:

Feuerstein claims that Starbucks wanted to “take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups” because, according to the caption on his video, “they hate Jesus.”

Feuerstein goes on to explain that when he visited a Starbucks store, he told the employee making his drink that his name was “Merry Christmas” so that his cup would read “Merry Christmas.” He later says “Guess what, Starbucks? Just to offend you, I made sure to wear my Jesus Christ shirt into your store (“Why #MerryChristmasStarbucks is Everything Wrong with American Christianity” by Nate Lake)

Apparently a good number of Mr. Feuerstein’s two million Facebook followers punched the “Like” button, and he, who would “stick it to Starbucks” appeared on CNN.

Sadly his complaint now stands as representative of Christians. Except, any number of believers (like Nate Lake in the article I quoted above) have taken issue with what he’s trying to accomplish, and more importantly, how he’s going about it. There’s also the push back to the idea that this rant against Starbucks is a Christian complaint.

All well and good until some people started complaining about those who were complaining about Mr. Feuerstein’s complaint.

And we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet.

In fact, I wonder if all this complaint leaves room for us to celebrate Thanksgiving. Are we Christians indeed a thankful people? Or are we an entitled lot who think a secular company owes us a holiday cup that acknowledges Jesus Christ? Or that secular media owes us a correct characterization of who Christians are and what we believe? Or who think we should, like the secularists, be guided by all that is politically correct.

It seems a little silly, but the core issue seems to be, I love Jesus and you should too, but because you don’t, I’m going to boycott you. Or rant against you. And purposefully offend you.

The counter then became, I love Jesus and you’re sullying His name by your offensive tactics and giving the media and all secularists an occasion to mock Christians.

Which then engendered, Why are you making an issue of something so trivial? Stop protesting so much.

Mr. Lake’s article, with which I agree in principle, is a call for Christians to treat those in our society who don’t believe as we do, with meekness.

I read another article by Pastor Kevin DeYoung, with which I also agree for the most part, entitled “Christmas Is Not For Cranks.” The call here is to see the light in our society and not just the dark:

The same malls that may wish to rid their public space of the most innocuously “Christian” greetings, will pump out the most blatant Christian propaganda from their loud speakers by playing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night,” and “Joy to the World.” Let’s not curse the darkness when there is still much light for which we can give thanks.

Well, yes.

But maybe we should first realize that Christmas actually is for cranks. We, cranks and offended alike, are sinners standing in need of the Savior whose coming we ostensibly are celebrating.

I think there’s one way we can check our attitude about Christmas: by first celebrating Thanksgiving. I know as a holiday here in the US it’s been reduced to a big family dinner (usually, but not always, with turkey), football, and, of late, shopping, or at least plans for shopping.

Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing my family, I love turkey dinners with all the scrumptious dishes I never make any other time of the year, and I love football (shopping less so! 😉 ). But lost in all the plans and preparation and travel and conversations and hilarity is a time of actual thanksgiving. In my family we still pray before our meal, and we do thank God for what He’s given, but when we stack up all the other things we do, thanksgiving gets a mighty small sliver.

Of course, I can’t say what others do apart from our time together. What I’m really concerned about is what I do, in my heart, as I approach Christmas and celebrate Thanksgiving. There’s a line in Psalm 84 about singing for joy to the living God. Every time I come to it, I think, I want my life to be filled with joy so that it overflows in song.

I don’t think I get there by complaining.

Not that I think we should shut our eyes to offenses. But there are ways to address offenses that aren’t offensive.

In this regard, I think Mr. Lake is right that Christ’s quality of meekness is a great guide, but I think it should apply to our treatment of the cranks as much as it should to those who ban Merry Christmas.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love isn’t a plastic smile on Sunday morning. Rather it causes us to listen to others, to ask God how we should respond, to put the needs of others first.

I’m speaking to myself here and feeling very convicted. But I’m also understanding something in a new way. The fruit of the Spirit, as I’ve heard before, encompasses love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are not “fruits” but “fruit.” It’s a package deal.

In other words, my desire to have a life filled with joy can’t happen in isolation from love and love can’t happen if it’s cut off from gentleness, which in turn is connected tightly to self-control. It’s a package.

Interesting, though, that thankfulness isn’t on the list. Yet Scripture commands us to be thankful any number of times. And to rejoice.

I’m thinking now that thanksgiving should not be something we wait to incorporate on Thanksgiving Day. And yes, I’ve heard over and over the charge that everyday should be thanksgiving day. But really, there is a time to celebrate. God instituted feast days for the people of Israel. It’s good and right and proper to think specially about what God has given us for which we can be thankful.

But maybe we should have the twelve days of thanksgiving. Or the thirty days. I know some people have determined to express gratitude for something different every day of the month. I like traditions and even some ritual. Maybe this is the time to employ it, at least a little.

Maybe between now and Christmas, I’ll employ a little ritualistic thanksgiving as part of my preparation to celebrate God giving the world His only begotten Son.

For Unto Us A Child Is Born




May God’s grace and peace rest on you today and always.

Published in: on December 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Peace And Blue Christmas

christmas-background-2-1408232-mMy church is holding a special service to address the needs of those who enter the Christmas season with heavy hearts. I understand that our culture can project unrealistic expectations which may cause some to be aware more keenly that they will never have a Hallmark Christmas.

The truth is, we’re all in that predicament. I mean which of us has 2.5 perfect children? 😉

Because we live in an imperfect world with other imperfect humans, we have to expect conflict and things not going our way. We have to expect some sadness, maybe loneliness, and disappointment.

Grown children don’t visit enough or call as often as their parents wish. Grown children watch their parents grow feeble and die, and wish they had called more or visited more.

We have wonderful things to enjoy in this world—it really is a beautiful, majestic place—and yet there are atheist sponsored billboards with a message about children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. And there are actual children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. I was one of those more often than I like to admit.

We have a host of people who will be dissatisfied with their Christmas celebration and another host dissatisfied that their Christmas break isn’t longer or that they have to wait 364 days before Christmas rolls around again.

Blue. It’s more a wonder that we aren’t all blue and in need of a special service teaching us how to get through this merry season. The thing is, the more we talk about how understandable it is that some are sad or lonely or needy or discouraged, and Merry Christmas is hard for them, the more I think we’re creating blue Christmas.

Christmas, after all, isn’t supposed to be a celebration of family—as wonderful as family is—or a season of bright lights and evergreen trees, of carols and bells, of eggnog and candy canes. All those are fun, beautiful, tasty. Traditions are great! But none of those things are what Christmas is about.

Or, let’s say, it’s not what Christmas has to be. For the Christian, Christmas is a day that gives us a chance to celebrate Christ’s first coming. If you think about it, there has never been anything so long anticipated than Christ’s coming.

So celebrate we should! I mean, the celebration of a follower of Jesus Christ should be filled with hilarity.

The long-expectant One came, as God promised. He who brought healing and hope and restoration made it here! It’s a done deal—the great move to abolish all the reasons for a blue Christmas has happened in the most unexpected, surprising way imaginable.

And by coming once, He gives us assurance that He will come again, as He said.

The peace, then, which we all can enjoy is that found only in the Prince of Peace. He is our peace.

So here’s what that means. Jews, Gentiles, men, women, those with an eastern thought pattern and those with a western one—we believers in Jesus Christ have been reconciled with God and now are part of His family. We have a new relationship with God, we’ve been renewed ourselves, and we have this new connection with all other believers.

Here’s how Paul explains it:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2: 13-14; 19-22, ESV, emphasis added)

So no matter what our individual external circumstances look like, we’re not alone, we have a forever family, we have a unique unity and purpose, we belong and are secure—all because Christ is our peace, the Christ who came as a child to the declaration of those angels—peace among men with whom He is pleased.

I’d say that’s cause for a Merry Christmas!