Why the Red Cup Makes Christmas Easy

It’s November which means Red Cup Season. This season marks the space between the last Pumpkin Spice Latte and Christmas Day. It’s the space where Starbucks makes a fortune while officially ushering us into the Advent Season. It’s characterized by a rush to your nearest emerald awning-topped door for a peppermint latte. The plan for 2015’s Red Cup season was the same until the design was unveiled on November 1st. 


The Red Cups are anti-Christmas with their minimalist red and green design. Christians grew angry as Christmas was missing from their Caramel Brulee lattes. As November days were ticked away, more and more Christian rants about the cups appeared online. Rants that said Christmas is threatened, ignored, defiled by said cups.


But the Red Cup is (ironically and literally) a red herring.


We’re all yelling at one another about the Starbucks cup because we can (literally) wrap our hands around the situation. It’s easy to smash that recycled cardboard drink receptacle in our hands and swear off our $4.00 coffees for the next few months. But what if we looked beyond the red glow of our morning coffee? What if instead of distractedly sipping our homemade brew we drank in world news with our morning caffeine boost?


If we did that, we’d see the mess.


We’d see the Mizzou Hunger Strike, ISIS continuing their campaign of terror, the Yale Costume Controversy, gun violence striking left and right, acts of terror raining down in the Middle East, a growing refugee crisis. We’d feel sick at the smell of our coffee because so much tragedy leaves our stomach churning in our bodily depths.


We’d drive to work, as we do every day, but we might skip Starbucks. On our drive we’d contemplate the stupid red cups with their offensive appeal, but the missing latte wouldn’t distract us from the  homeless man whose missing shoes and whose breath is visible in the frigid morning air, we’d watch the four brunette siblings without jackets huddle for warmth as they hurry to school through the cold, we’d see the man who’s always at the bus stop but today we’d notice his walker beside him.


We might have to think about the sister we’ve ignored for years because of those hurtful words she said. We could end up thinking about the friend whose father is dying and feel convicted to email him with words of encouragement. We might realize those hasty words spoken out of frustration in the meeting yesterday were uncalled for and, actually, deeply offensive.


If we set aside the Red Cup Diatribe, we’d see the real problem with Christmas.


We’d see the immense challenge of spreading joy when we’re surrounded with such overwhelming hurt. The Advent season brings with it a renewed desire to spread joy and cheer during the snowy, chilly time of year. And it’s good to spread joy. But it’s hard to celebrate when there’s so much brokenness. It’s hard to see the blessedness of this life when chaos and hurt abounds.


And we don’t like to do the hard thing because it’s uncomfortable, challenging, inconvenient.


So, maybe, it’s not about the cups, but about ease. Maybe we’re choosing the easy battle for Believers. Maybe the war on Red Cups will allow us to take a stand solidly planted in our comfort zone. Maybe we can change the way one company chose to market their product and, in doing so, be emboldened to go on to change the world. Maybe if we focus on the design -or lack thereof- that symbolizes our Red Cup Season, we can ignore the wounds that maim our fellow men.


But we can’t continue focusing on the Red Cup, not if we want to continue calling ourselves His beloved children. We must pick up the heavy burdens, run toward the deep hurts, garner His strength for the hard climbs. We must practice what He preached: kindness, grace, listening. The first step is to stop with what’s easy and to start with what’s life-giving.


And if you want to do it with a red cup in your hand, kudos.