The Great Cup Debacle

I have seen too many thoughts about this topic, so I feel compelled to throw my hat in the ring on this one.

As I understand the origins of this, Starbucks has decided this year that they will not put “Merry Christmas” on their “holiday” cups. They are a plain red cup with a green Starbucks logo on them — which I see as pretty trendy. They are minimalist and clean and the design is something that catches my eye.

There is a guy who makes videos about the evils of the world who has called for a boycott of Starbucks because of this. He says we should not buy coffee from a place that won’t say “Merry Christmas.” And if you do buy coffee from them, when they ask your name, tell them your name is “Merry Christmas” so they have to write that on the cup.


My non-Christian friends are so tired of this kind of bullying by the church, and this puts things over the top for sure. So I want to give some thoughts to those of us who are following Jesus and trying to do the right thing in all of this. Please, at least let these thoughts have a place at the table during this conversation.

1. Holiday is rooted in two words: holy and day.

Please don’t think we are eliminating God by saying happy holidays and not Merry Christmas. It just isn’t true. And don’t think we are eliminating Jesus when we say happy holidays. We eliminate Jesus when we are caught up in the pressure and presents and hustle and bustle of the season. It has nothing to do with what we call the season.

2. Merry Christmas isn’t the world’s story to tell.

This message falls squarely in the hands of Jesus followers. And perhaps we have abdicated our responsibility to tell the story well. Maybe a reinvigoration of the advent season is in order for us to be able to focus on the story and how we actually tell it. We don’t tell this story well by the words we speak, but by the lives we live. Kindness in this season is critical, because people aren’t nice.

I remember a few years ago when I was visiting with two baristas at Starbucks during the Christmas season. They were not looking forward to the day at all because people are, in their own words, “extra mean” during this season of presents and brotherly love and chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

They were worried when they found out I was a pastor. Apparently those coming through the line who were talking about church and Christmas Eve services and Jesus and how the world is a mess because of “happy holidays” were the most mean. I gladly changed their perception with a $40 tip. Maybe it was silly, but for me, letting them know that those who really follow Jesus act in a better way was critical in that moment. It actually caused them to tear up to know someone would care about them. Simple acts of kindness put our God on display so much better than taking a silly stand for two insignificant words.

3. Meaningless boycotts don’t change the world — loving kindness does.

Let’s be realistic. We all have our convictions about the world and where we should shop and why. Some have sworn off buying anything made in a sweatshop because of the protection of human rights. And that is great. I remember when Jerry Falwell asked all Christians to boycott Disneyland. Realistically, did Disneyland feel the pinch? No. It sure was plenty busy when I was there.

And my bigger question is, “Will Starbucks feel the pinch of Christians throwing a fit?” The answer is no. If anything, people are going to go more just because of the controversy. I guess Starbucks needs to say thanks to the church for causing coffee sales to go through the roof with their meaningless boycott.

When I was a young parent, I was given some amazing advice I have always held onto: “You cannot expect a child to act like an adult, because they aren’t one.” I would suggest a similar way of thinking for this situation. Christians, you cannot expect non-Christians to act like a Christian. They aren’t one. So stop yelling at them and start living out your own faith well.

4. In the wake of this silliness, buying a coffee at Starbucks and being gentle and kind about it may be the very best way to put Jesus on display this holiday season.

Feel free to go to Starbucks. Be nice when you purchase your drink. Be thankful when they give it to you. Be positive when you interact with them. And if they mess up the order, be graceful. You blow it sometimes, too.

May you be struck with the awe and wonder of the holiday season. May you see Jesus inviting you into the stables of your life and meeting you there. May you be meek and lowly in heart because this is how our savior acted. And may you be a shining example of what it means to follow Jesus with your heart and with your head. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.