Written by Malachi Brown
My freshman year when we had a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas break because of COVID-19, I took a seasonal job as a cashier at Walgreens. That wasn’t long after I’d finished “Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the first time, who introduced the idea to me that to be a Christian entails participating in the suffering of our savior. Hearing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” play every 30 minutes, it’s enough to make any retail worker hate it — when that retail worker is you, you hate it because it reminds you of everything grace is not. Celebration without suffering, forgiveness without repentance and hymns without devotion are all oxymorons.
I can never decide how I feel about non-believers celebrating Christmas and Easter. Should I be happy that despite their unbelief, they find a season to see others and be happy, or should I see their seasonal joy as phony? Should I give up what joy I have during these seasons even when others often have selfish reasons for celebrating and companies only chase after greed — or should I call what I see: religious appropriation? Should I get mad when people take lightly the incarnation and suffering of my savior, or should I turn the other cheek and be merry?
It’s easy to put up a segregating wall between us and the “two-timers” (Christmas and Easter service attenders). There are those of us who celebrate the deeper meaning of the holidays, while the general public only sees presents or Peeps marshmallows. I feel as if there are two problems here: first that we do not have the humility to remember that our recognition of deeper values does not make us better than others; secondly that we do not have the humility to realize difference is not a cause for segregation, but a cause to bridge the gap. These seasons that have been commercialized give us an opportunity to see the workings of the Holy Spirit who has been “poured out on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). It might be the time of year where those who usually view these seasons superficially can be invited into something deeper.
For those who do not experience the church, I think these seasons are the perfect opportunities for them to be introduced to the kind of familial love the Church offers. I think Easter especially reminds us that “He is making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Easter and Christmas can be a time when the walls between Christians and others can be knocked down. When we understand these seasons as times of shared celebrations, then we can start there and point them to the reason why. They are times when all of God’s creation — those who recognize their father and those who don’t — can feel the effects of the Creator. If you usually have an empty chair at your meal table at Easter time, do not scoff at those who eat Peeps marshmallows and show up to church once a year because you have not invited them into your home and life so they may learn of our Savior who lies behind the bright colors and sales.