In 1997, Starbucks introduced a special new cup to hold its beverages during the holiday season.
“The theme for holiday was “Give in to the Rhythm,” and the red festive cups punctuated the jewel-toned palate of deep reds, greens, blues and yellows and a jazzy Santa with a profile that evoked the Starbucks siren,” according to the company’s website.
Ever since then, the company has continued the tradition of the red cup, with whimsical designs carrying along holiday themes like snowflakes, penguins, and like last year’s cup, broad art strokes suggesting trees, stars, and snowflakes. This year, the company dropped the graphic altogether and opted for just a red cup. No graphics, no penguins, no Santa Claus.
And, for some reason, this has made some Christians around the world decide that Starbucks hates Christmas.
A company that has never put Baby Jesus on a cup suddenly hates Christmas because they don’t put Santa on them anymore? A company that has never ever attempted to direct anyone to Bethlehem suddenly hates Christmas because there are no graphic representations of snowflakes?
I really don’t get it.
Some of the very people who are angry at Starbucks for leaving Santa off a cup are the same people that bristle because there’s too much Santa Claus and not enough Jesus, the “reason for the season.” Years ago, I wrote that “I don’t really care how you feel about Santa Claus,” because people were missing the point.
This year, people are not only missing the point, they are driving over it with a Mac truck.
Jesus is the reason for the season. I agree with that.
But none of the traditions or trappings of Christmas have anything to do with Jesus. Christmas trees were not invented by Martin Luther, but by a bunch of guys wearing fur hats in Latvia. And when they were done with the tree, they burned it down. Jesus wasn’t born in the deep midwinter, but most likely closer to springtime, and it definitely never snowed in Bethlehem. “The 12 Days of Christmas” actually just celebrates a bunch of dead saints. And, just for the record, the wise men never showed up at the manger. (That’s actually in the Bible.)
Just like the red cups, none of these traditions have anything to do with Jesus.
And when we yell about things like red cups, we don’t have much to do with Jesus, either.
When He was born, the angels said it was good news of great joy. There’s not much joy on the faces of people busy yelling about what they don’t like. There’s not a lot of good news being shared when you get mad at baristas who have nothing to do with a corporate policy. And every time it happens, people who should be drawing closer to Jesus are pushed farther and farther away by His followers–doing the opposite of what Jesus himself said He came to do: “draw all men to me.”
God didn’t wake up at the start of November, shocked and surprised: “WHAT?!?! There’s no snowflakes on the red cups? Howard Schultz must hate Christmas!”
God didn’t see a red cup and call for a boycott or social media movement to shame a company that isn’t Christian and doesn’t share God’s agenda. He’s not impressed when His followers say their name is “Merry Christmas” so it gets written on a cup, and He certainly doesn’t light up heaven with fireworks every time someone Instagrams or tweets with a special hashtag.
What’s God’s agenda? I don’t know exactly what Jesus would say it is, but I would guess it might be something like this: “Red cups? That’s what we’re giving all our attention to? Why are you focused on that? Shine the light where it’s supposed to be shining. Show them who I AM.”
So, no. I don’t really care how you feel about a red cup.
While you shine your light on that, I think I’ll shine my light where the star of Christmas first shone: on Jesus. He’s bigger and better and greater than any holiday tradition. And I’ll do my best to do what He did: bring His light into a dark world and offer them hope and joy and peace.
That’s a whole lot better than a $5 cup of coffee. Even in a red cup.