What’s in your cup?

Image credit: MorgueFile free photo: http://mrg.bz/T62g00
Image credit: MorgueFile free photo: http://mrg.bz/T62g00

I first heard about the Starbucks scandal on Sunday. A friend had posted a link to the (now) viral video in which an evangelist calls out Starbucks for making a corporate decision of inclusion during the holiday season.  Likely, you have already heard of the company’s “offensive” move to remove the images of snowmen, ornaments, and snowflakes from its holiday cup, leaving only the corporate logo boldly displayed on its traditional red cup.  As though it was a crime against humanity, the evangelist waged war against Starbucks and their product packaging decision.  Apparently, a plain red cup is the latest weapon in the “war on Christmas”,  worthy of its own hashtag, extensive news coverage, and lots of social media chatter. Even Donald Trump has joined in the rally suggesting a boycott against Starbucks and promising a return to “Merry Christmas” if he becomes president.

Really? A cup is a Christmas symbol? I was raised Catholic and though I more often identify myself as spiritual, I do attend a (liberal) Christian church and mark “Christian” on the little box on hospital forms.  Growing up, Christmas was a big deal in our house–big, really BIG–and my parents (especially my mom) worked to create special memories every year. Despite the pile of gifts under the tree each year, most of the memories I carry are those created from our annual traditions; traditions that kept the focus on the “reason for the season.”

For example, there was our annual ornament shopping. Each year, dressed in our Sunday best, my parents  took all 9  children (spaced 11 years apart) out for a special lunch and to the pool/patio store that transformed its sales floor into a holiday wonderland. Filled with Christmas trees heavy with ornaments, Christmas villages, strands of lights, and other décor, my parents had the patience of Job as they waited for this child or that to make their selection. Each of us carefully examined  the roughly 30 trees, wanting to be certain we’d seen all the choices before selecting that year’s ornament. And, when we returned home, each child looked for their special place on the tree to display their new, best-ever, ornament. The oldest, with his love of birds, always found someplace toward the top so the long tail feathers would drape “the way they’re supposed to.” When I was little, I liked someplace in the bottom 1/3 of the tree where I could remove and handle my ornament without much notice. Ask any one of us children, and the ornament shopping was never about the holiday decoration; it was about patience and memories of togetherness created and treasured, and a tradition each of us now shares with our own children.

Then there was the basket filled with small pieces of yellow yarn that sat next to the round advent wreath on our large kitchen table. In the center of the wreath sat a small wooden crib. Our mission was to help build the bed for the coming baby Jesus. With each act of kindness (neither requested nor boasted about), we could lay a “piece of hay” in the crib to welcome and comfort the new-born King. Like any house filled with 9 children, we had our scuffles, but from Thanksgiving until Christmas, there was a softness in our words and our hearts. This tradition helped us keep our eyes on the message of Christ; be kind, be not boastful, do unto others.

Perhaps the tradition that gets some of the greatest giggles when being retold are the years my father directed us in the re-enactment of the story of Christmas. Each of us played a character in the night that Mary and Joseph traveled from inn to inn, searching for a place to rest for the night. The 5 bedrooms upstairs served as the stage and bed sheets were the only costuming.  Always sensitive to the age differences, my parents insisted the older children still participate long after they outgrew the tradition, so each of us had several years’ worth of memories playing out the Christmas story. Each year, my mother would giggle with us while prompting us to remember why we celebrate Christmas and of the struggle and discrimination a young couple faced. My father was the perfect stage director as we rotated through the story several times so that each pair of children had the chance to play the coveted roles of Mary and Joseph. And, each year, by the time all was said and done, we were again focused on togetherness and the real “reason for the season.”

Sure, there were other traditions–the wind up Santa with the bell, the 6 course prime rib dinner, and the taking of turns when opening gifts so that everyone shared in everyone else’s joy. (Yes, gift opening often took several hours in our house.) Each tradition kept our eyes focused on what mattered, why we even celebrated Christmas, and what Jesus taught us about living.

I wonder what Jesus would think if he was sitting in a Starbucks today. Would HE be offended by a cup intended to symbolize inclusiveness? Then I think about the re-enactment of the Christmas story we acted out as children, the messages of struggle and discrimination his parents faced before and after his birth. What would Mary or Joseph think about the #Starbucksredcup? I can only imagine, and I imagine they wouldn’t be thrilled having their message minimized by a red cup.

My mother used to say it doesn’t matter if you are acting like a “good Christian” if your heart is somewhere else. Have we strayed so far from the teachings of Christ  we forgot HIS message? The traditions I grew up with taught me that Jesus came to teach us to be more accepting  and to love each other; he taught about inclusion.  As Christians we are taught that we are the body of Christ, his hands and feet to spread his message. Jesus’s message isn’t found on a cup, it’s found inside the cup.

What’s in your cup?

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28 thoughts on “What’s in your cup?”

  1. It’s the traditions we remember and pass on that make any occasion special. I started my blog with an entry on a few that my mixed religion family have practiced over the years. Maybe someday I’ll get back to expanding on that post as I’d intended. Meanwhile, I enjoyed learning about those of your crazy (and I mean that in only the nicest way since large families so harm our environment, right?) Catholic family. My late father-in-law was the second eldest in his traditionally Mormon family of ten kids. Their motivation was way more acceptable, though. They needed that many pairs of hands to work the farm. Guess that’s why there are still a lot of large families in Utah today?

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  2. The whole red cup debacle is ridiculous! To me the red cup is the color of Christmas and a symbol all it’s own. I know that people love decorating and writing creatively on these cups so perhaps that was the point? Anyways I think Jesus would love the happy red holiday cup minus the controversy!

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  3. While I agree with most of your perceptions I at least am glad that some Christians have decided to finally take a stand on something! I too just wish they would rally around issues that mean something. Christians have set by and allowed our witness and our rights to be diminished. Now before we get in an uproar about my comments we must take some of the blame for what has happened. As Christians we have become so judgmental forgetting that we are first to love each other just as as Christ has loved us. Loving however does not mean accepting sin for anything except what it is …sin! We must never forget that we are all sinners, Christians are just sinners who have been saved by the grace of God. God’s forgiveness is there for everyone who repents of their sins and ask God for His forgiveness. Now that I have said all that, I am not a fan of Starbucks because of their views of Christians and the family. The CEO of Starbucks seems to have waged his own war on Christians and anyone else who supports traditional family values. Therefore I choose not to support Starbucks. As Christians, lets show love even in our anger and let’s rally around issues that really mean something. Jesus got angry but his anger was justified is ours?

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      1. As a Jew who has learned a lot about Christianity and its origins, I certainly hope these icons of your religion, who were Jews, after all, would have bigger concerns than a cup! If not, why extol their virtues to the world today?

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  4. My parents brought my brothers and me up as conservatives Jews. I am now unaffiliated and my guide my beliefs with spirituality and following the rules of The Ten Commandments. I attended a Jesuit college. I love Christmas more than any other holiday. Aside from it being my dad’s birthday (he’ll be 88 and we call it “Herbmas’ for Herbert) I love everything about Christmas. I observe it all except the Xmas tree. And although I believe Jesus was an extraordinary man I respect the Christian belief in him.

    This is all so ridiculous. I can’t even believe we’re talking about this. What we are in our hearts and deeds are what matters. Poor Starbucks for getting hammered so. Excuse me now while I run out to get my grande soy latte….

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  5. I’ve been shaking my head several times over on this one. Oh, well. Pharisees. What can you do with ’em? As for what’s in my cup, it’s not Starbucks, only because they burn their beans, and my husband hand roasts ours. Tho’ I might just buy a red cup in support.

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  6. Loved your post, Mary! It’s a sad day in the world when a simple cup can cause such an uproar. Why are people so angry over so little? It’s red and green, so I’d suggest they take their own Christmas sticker and stick it….. right on that cup!

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      1. What a great idea! Starbucks coffee is too strong for me, and definitely too frou-frou, though I have enjoyed an occasional Oprah chai tea latte there. Do they even serve those, anymore? Fortunately, most of the Fox News driven War on Xmas (I like the flexibility of this abbreviation) uproar had blown over by the time I even figured what controversy Starbucks had inspired with its most recent cup decor.

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  7. All the uproar over a cup. Drink your coffee folks, any way you like it. WWJD? He would enjoy his extra hot skim soy latte and maybe turn a few drinks into wine just for fun. Tis the season to be joyful, we need to get a grip.

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