About Those Starbucks Cups
There are a few things that have become clear about American cultural Christianity amidst this Starbucks controversy, a recurring controversy that simply manifests itself in different locations each season. The first is one of irony: the same cultural Christianity that laments each year about the commercialization of Christmas is now asking for perhaps the most prominent commercial emblem in the United States, Starbucks, to carry its message. Christmas has become commonly a holiday about buying things and giving them as gifts; and while we participate in this tradition we will enjoy a steamy vanilla latte (non-fat), and those baristas had better play along, because if not we might just get the inclination that the world rejected its Savior and that for me to follow him might just lead to things that are unpleasant. And who wants unpleasant? After all, it’s Christmas. This leads me to the second observation…
It is not our religious beliefs that are offended, but our traditional, cultural beliefs. No one is asking Starbucks to display on their cups, “Sin entered the world through Adam, and now through the babe Jesus, atonement for sin can be possible.” It is clearly not an attack on Jesus, but on our traditional view of Christmastide. We remember (or fantasize of) false 1950’s neighborhoods where every person on the street cried “Merry Christmas” to one another, dismissing any other belief or tradition as being “outside of normal society.” So which set of beliefs are we really holding this Christmas? Have we clung to the one who has come, that babe in the manger who is Immanuel, God with us, celebrating within the church, amongst the fellowship of believers, his coming? Or do what we really hold is an appreciation for the “good ol’ days” (which didn’t really exist anyway), where the secular world played along with our religious traditions? Because if we are truly holding on to the latter, then we are in fact, in a sad state. This is not new news of course, but what we see in every day life, not just approaching the holidays. And it is no surprise to true believers in Jesus, the exiles in a strange land. We are part of a different kingdom, and our king was born in a cattle stall.
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, and who celebrates that? Not Starbucks, and they certainly don’t have to. The body of Christ, the church, celebrates that. And by doing so, we ring out those bells into the night air, we are the city on a hill. It is our job to do so. So I have a new plan for those who will protest Starbucks this Christmas who claim to be Christians… go to your nearest Starbucks in search of the source of the problem, walk in the front door, and order nothing. Find the bathroom, over the sink you will see a mirror. Then go home, open old Christmas hymns and live in those hard words about the state of the world and the state of our hearts without God, and wonder, what would it be like to truly worship him this Christmas? O Come, let us adore him.