Other Christian groups are not bothered by the cards. "I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards," said the National Council of Churches' general secretary, the Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman.

Closing the Church Doors...on Christmas?

Christmas is one of the most important religious holidays of the year, but a growing number of churches are closing their doors on Christmas Day, which this year falls on a Sunday. For one central Kentucky mega-church, "family trumps worship" on Christmas, and canceling services allows staff and volunteers to spend more time with their families. Blogger Matt Jones was disappointed by a similar development at his home church in Tacoma, WA. In response, Jones has written the church a letter and urged his readers to do the same to congregations that are not holding services on Christmas day.

The Creche vs. the Condo

The Detroit News reports this story about a family whose condominium association has instructed them to remove a nativity scene from their front lawn. The association says that the display violates the condo's rules about not putting up decorations or statues without first getting permission from the board. The family is claiming that the condo is discriminating against their religious beliefs by asking only that the nativity be removed, while ignoring other, secular, statues that are displayed on the lawn. The association replied that neighbors complained only about the nativity scene, and not about the other statues. The stiuation is at an impasse, with the family refusing to remove the display.

Judge Alito, Christmas Hero?

David Kirkpatrick writes this article in the New York Times about political ads that portray Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. as a protector of Christmas. One radio commercial, paid for by the conservative Committee for Justice, denounces "liberal groups like People for the American Way and the ACLU," which they say "have opposed public Christmas and Hanukkah displays and even fought to keep Christmas carols out of school." In contrast, the ad continues, "Throughout his career, Judge Alito has consistently upheld the Constitution's protection of free religious expression." The ad airs in Colorado, Wisconsin, and West Virginia this week.

The Commercial Irony

In an op-ed column that ran in yesterday's New York Times, Adam Cohen writes about what he describes is an irony in this year's battle over Christmas. In the 1920s, when the "Christmas shopping season" first came to be identified by retailers, there was "an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out," he writes. Ironically, he continues, religious conservatives today are making the marketplace--and whether stores wish their customers "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"--the battleground for the debate. Writes Cohen, "This year's Christmas 'defenders' are not just tolerating commercialization--they're insisting on it."

Ringing in the Boycotts

The American Family Association, a "pro-family" Christian organization, has posted a list of stores that have "banned Christmas" by wishing customers "Happy Holidays." The group is calling for a boycott of Target, which in addition to only using the word "holidays" has banned Salvation Army bell-ringers from stores. Other chains, including Sears, Office Max, Home Depot, and Best Buy, are also listed, with the AFA urging members to write to the companies and express their disappointment.

Words to Heal the Rift

Just in time for the gift-giving season--and the time of year when interfaith families struggle the most--is a new book on Jewish-Christian reconciliation. Healing the Jewish-Christian Rift: Growing Beyond Our Wounded History, just published by Jewish Lights, seizes on the holiday season as a teachable moment where Jews and Christians can do some truly constructive and genuine healing work by learning the history and theology of the other tradition.