Nothing helps us remember the reason for the season like a Walgreen's store clerk who remembers to say "Merry Christmas" when she hands us change from our last-minute Snuggie purchase.

The culture-war frontier has been littered with the debris of yearly Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas throw-downs as a noisy segment of American Christendom have elected themselves to serve as defenders of a perfect Christmas past. This year, First Baptist Church of Dallas is encouraging visitors to their Grinch Alert website to help make a list of naughty and nice merchants. The litmus test for niceness is simple: Nice merchants say "Merry Christmas." (Tattling on retailers who don't say the magic words on the Internet apparently counts as nice behavior as well.) Not surprisingly, this website has gotten a fair amount of news attention in recent days.

I would like to suggest that we'd be doing our non-Christian friends a huge favor if we used some of our culture war weapons on ourselves during the Christmas season. Instead of savoring the delicious jolt of affirmation some of us get from the words "Merry Christmas," what if we engage in a little self-analysis of how we celebrate the holiday within our churches?

Many congregations craft sentimental, gingerbread-scented ways of celebrating the season without giving our programming's message much thought. "It's all about Jesus," we say, while filling our church calendars with 1brunches, sanctuary decorating parties, children's cantatas, and "Secret Angel" Bible study gift exchanges.

Before you rush to enter my name on the Grinch Alert list, please hear me out. I am not saying that any of these activities are bad. What I am saying is that a lot of these events are designed to create some "Happy ...

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