Wait a minute. Have the malls already been turned into little fake islands of New England? Is it already that time of year? Methinks that this punchy little story by Richard N. Ostling of the Associated Press officially represents the starting bell for that season most beloved to merchants and lawyers -- The Holidays.
Yes, the Christmas wars are getting off to a very early start.
"Wordless instrumental music"? Saints preserve us!
Communities and courts have long fielded protests against municipal creche displays and school Nativity pageants, based on strict views of church-state separation and sensitivity toward religious minorities. In recent years, however, local disputes have extended to carol singing, wordless instrumental music, Christmas trees and decorations, classroom visits by Santa Claus, distribution of Christmas-themed cards and gifts, "Merry Christmas!" greetings and designation of Christmas on official calendars.
This week, the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., announced that its 800 cooperating attorneys have volunteered to handle without fee complaints about "improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property."
Truth be told, there are valid issues at stake here. I know that. But I do wish that more churches would put more effort into actually marking Advent (or Nativity Lent, in the East) and then actually celebrating Christmas -- all 12 days of it after Dec. 25 -- in their own homes, in their own sanctuaries, on their own property and, in ways that are completely legal, by caroling and greeting people in the public square. Just do it.
And if you want to laugh to keep from crying, dig out a copy -- used ones right here -- of the classic Away with the Manger by an evangelical wise guy named Chris Fabry. My favorite moment is when the angry Christians march toward the town square, led by a U.S. Marine, who helps them belt out this military-style chant:
You can't take our holiday! It's in our heart and here to stay! Sound off! JESUS! Sound off! HE'S BORN!
I think you get the idea.