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?