Soon after Sam's Club and L.L. Bean were downgraded this month on the American Family Association's "Naughty or Nice" list for reducing the use of the word "Christmas," the two companies made changes in their websites and print ads to earn their places back on the nice list.
"Their websites underwent dramatic changes, almost overnight, to include 'Christmas,'" OneNewsNow.com quoted AFA's director for special projects, Randy Sharp, as saying. "In addition, some of their print items they're handing out in stores now include 'Christmas.'"
What's most remarkable is that these companies changed because they begin getting phone calls from shoppers, from consumers, from their customer base, Sharp added. "The message is if you're not going to recognize Christmas, I'm not going to do my Christmas shopping with you." more >>
As atheist groups are known for suing public schools each winter season for displaying Christmas cheer or using greetings like "Merry Christmas," a state representative from Texas, Dwayne Bohac, has filed a bill that would free schools from such concerns.
"During this time every year, I hear from numerous constituents who believe the words 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Hanukkah' should be protected and not subject to censorship in our public schools," Bohac, a Republican from Houston, said in a statement about his "Merry Christmas Bill" to protect traditional holiday greetings and displays in Texas public schools.
"These parents and educators want the freedom to decorate Christmas trees, use traditional holiday greetings, display Menorahs and generally celebrate these traditional winter holidays on school grounds," Bohac explained. Calling the bill "common-sense legislation," he said it tracks Supreme Court precedent which has made it clear that "such expressions and displays are, indeed, permissible." more >>
For many Americans, Christmas time calls for remembering Jesus' birth, giving gifts, spending time with family, and almost inevitably, stress. Megachurches in the U.S. are no different, with many of them preparing an array of Christmas performances and services for attendees, the organization for which begins as early as summer.
Willow Creek Community Church of South Barrington, Ill., one of the largest churches in the U.S, is a prime example, with hundreds of faith-filled volunteers dedicating their free time to the production of 28 Christmas services, including 12 at the central campus in South Barrington, with 11 identical services in English and one conducted entirely in Spanish, and an additional 16 services at the church's five regional campuses.
So how does Willow Creek even begin to orchestrate the manpower needed for such an arduous project? more >>
Christmas pageants have become a thing of the past for many churches in the Winston-Salem, N.C., metro area. Instead of pouring all their resources into one giant production for the congregation, these churches have chosen to look outward and take the Christmas "party" to the community.
Christmas for the City has become an annual tradition in Winston-Salem where churchgoers spend less of their time and energy on plays and more on shining the light of Christ in other people's lives. This year's party drew more than 10,000 people to the Benton Convention Center.
"[W]e were stunned to find a line stretching around the block waiting to get in," Chuck Spong, executive director of Love Out Loud and Christmas for the City, told The Christian Post about Wednesday's event. "In a very real sense, it was dramatic the activity of God that happened all throughout the building." more >>
As Christians around the world get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, believers in Syria are welcoming the holiday on a much more somber note.
"We will use the Christmas time to visit the families that have been going through pain and suffering," a pastor in Damascus told Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog that aids Christians around the world. "Christians will come together in the churches of the capital to have their Christmas services, but no decorations and nothing big," he says. "The whole city is mourning the loss of their people, family and friends this year, so people will not really celebrate."
Syria has faced the ravages of civil war this past year, as President Bashar al-Assad has been doing everything possible to quell the rebellion against his administration. While the Syrian government is saying that "terrorists" have been attacking its authority, rebel groups say that they are fighting against a tyrant who has even threatened to use chemical weapons on his own people. more >>
I was in New York City when it happened, some thirty-five miles from an event so horrific we can hardly imagine it, much less describe it. "Words strain, crack, and sometimes break, under the burden, under the tension, slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision," wrote T. S. Eliot. Horror, tragedy, murder-all slip-sliding words for what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. Such words do not work because we also use them in other less serious senses. We speak of horror films, tragic dramas, and murder on the Orient Express. Something deeper, darker is going on here.
Who, what, when, where, were quickly answered. But the why question lingers, festers. Not only why Adam Lanza, a young man barely out of his teens, could have done what he did-was it the broken family, violent video games, too easy access to weapons of war? But also the deeper "why?" Why we live in a world where things like this happen, why God didn't step in and stop the bullets, and why human beings continue to ask why, and why Jesus asked why in the darkest moment of his life on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Matt. 27:46).
On Sunday I went to Central Presbyterian Church where my Beeson colleague, Doug Webster, led the service. He asked the children of the congregation to come forward for a special time of prayer with him. He asked whether they had noticed any extra hugs and kisses from their parents of late. He told them that because it was the Christmas season, and because of what was happening in the world, they could expect to be held extra tight over the next few days. He told them how precious they were, how very much they mattered to their moms and dads and to God. He was talking to the kids, but he was speaking to all of us who long to be embraced in Jesus's arms, those strong and everlasting arms. more >>