In a word, my suggestion to Christian leaders in this holiday season: Relax.

Don’t work so hard to define Advent. It has been many decades since people marked time by church seasons. “Advent” is the answer to a question that hardly anyone is asking.

Don’t fret about Christmas carols being played all month at the mall. If people are getting lost in shopping, they won’t be found by hectoring our culture to “put Christ back in Christmas.” They will be found, as always, by being loved and shown a grace that can’t be bought.

Don’t worry about filling the church on Christmas Eve. That evening isn’t a measure of your faith community’s readiness for ministry. Be there for those who seek that “silent night,” and be in other places where people seek God.

Don’t be lavish, as if your congregation were exempt from financial distress. Better to share a simple holiday than try to replicate the lavish decorations of a more prosperous era. Be a model to parishioners facing this same quandary at home.

God will give us a holy season.


Q: What did you think of the FOX network’s apoplectic criticism of President Obama for not using the word “God” in his YouTube Thanksgiving address?

A: I manage to avoid Fox news on television and recently canceled my subscription to The Wall Street Journal, once a great newspaper (and my former employer) and now a tool of the Republican Party. So I missed this latest episode in Murdoch’s determination to build up the Republican Party by doing anything possible to defame President Obama.

Many on the right wing simply cannot accept the legitimacy of Obama, probably because he is an African-American. They deny both his birth and his faith. Sad.

As to whether a politician is required to mention God in an address, common sense says, Who cares? We elect them for their ability to lead us forward in a dangerous and complex world, not for their passing the litmus tests of religion. I doubt that God was offended. Look at the charlatans who do use God’s name as a prelude to violating God’s desires.