Monday, November 23, 2015

Caffeine, Coffee Cups and Christmas

So, here we are on the cusp of the Christmas season, and Starbucks is providing coffee cups in traditional red and green, but with nary a snowflake, reindeer, snowman, Santa Claus or Christmas tree. A stark red cup featuring nothing but the famous Starbucks logo in green.

Perhaps the message on the sleeve around
someone's coffee cup has it right.
We all knew that in these days of “happy holidays,” this famous purveyor of all things espresso and latte and frappuccino wasn’t going to display Nativity scenes on its cups, or proclaim “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” but no winter symbols even? What do they have against Christmas, right?

Well, I for one have felt not a single twinge in my offending bone since hearing the news. After all, they got the colors right. It’s not like they’re going with lavender and orange. Maybe the snowflakes and snowmen aren’t there due to global warming. Maybe they didn’t want to offend customers in Hawaii who never see real snow. Maybe Santa’s lawyer filed suit prohibiting the coffee shops from using images of himself or his soaring steeds. Maybe the Starbucks folks feared getting pine needles in the peppermint mochas.

Or maybe “Red Solo cup, I drink you up, let’s have a party” is going to be their new theme song.

Yes, there seems a concerted effort in some quarters to de-emphasize Christmas in the name of “tolerance.” I get that not everyone feels all warm and fuzzy at the sight of Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child and His visitors. But perhaps our offense at how retail outlets choose to observe the Christmas/holiday season is defeating our purpose in seeking to advance the cause of Christ.

What really do snowflakes and Santa have to do with the true meaning of Christmas anyway? How do they aid in celebrating God’s arrival on earth in human form to teach, serve as our example, sacrifice His own life for our sins, and offer us life eternal through His resurrection? When Jesus gave His final words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19), He was speaking to each of us, not to Starbucks or Target, or even Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby.

We can choose which stores to patronize and which to avoid, but to expect any retailer or corporation to promote or endorse our understanding of Christmas isn’t realistic. It’s doubtful Jesus cares at all what kind of cups any coffee shop uses to serve its caffeine products. I’m sure He’s not concerned about the exact date when stores elect to again display their holiday finery.

He does care, however, about how each of us regards Him and this special time of year. The Scriptures direct us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The passage goes on to say we should “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

When we openly take offense over the graphics on beverage cups an establishment uses, or whether they say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” are we giving people reason, as the verses suggest, to ask about the hope that we have? Is complaining about leaving wintry symbols off coffee cups showing gentleness and respect, and giving others no basis for criticizing our behavior as followers of Jesus?

Another passage I’ve often referred to, Colossians 4:5-6, gives parameters for our attitudes and demeanor during this and every season of the year: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer everyone.” There it is again – the idea of speaking and interacting with people in such a way that they become curious enough to ask about what we believe and why.

Those of us who have committed our lives to Jesus Christ know He indeed is “the reason for the season,” as Christmas cards and social media posts annually remind us. But if we insist on wrangling over coffee cup designs, pink Christmas trees, or the choices of music being played on the store’s sound system, we’ll succeed only in lowering ourselves rather than lifting up Christ.

As Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday officially usher in the Christmas season, in all its greedy, commercialized glory, let’s not forget it’s really about Jesus, not snowflakes, Santa and his elves, or even flying cherubs. It’s about good news – the Good News. And as someone far wiser that me has said, “We have to be good news before we can share Good News.”

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