Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Holiday Greetings War

I've started getting the annual emails from folks who are upset about the use of the term 'Happy Holidays' in the latter part of the year.

Normally, I just keep my mouth shut about such things but I really want to point something out about the hubbub that's been repeating itself for about 6 years now.

When I was a kid, back in the dark ages before cable TV, let alone the Internet, 'Happy Holidays' was a common wish and I don' t remember anyone raising a fuss about it.  With Christmas and New Year's Day just a week apart, 'Happy Holidays' covered both of them.

And that was when everyone we knew in our little midwest farm community celebrated Christmas.  We were a pretty homogenous bunch.

But society has diversified, and there are people of other religions who do not celebrate Christmas filtering through more and more of our population.  I've even met a few Christians who do not celebrate Christmas (the Pilgrims actually outlawed the observation of Christmas).  While I am heartily inclined to wish any and all a blessed and merry Christmas, it doesn't seem to be wise or courteous to offer such greetings to someone to whom December 25 is just another day.

And, yes, I am well aware that Jesus very likely was not born on December 25.  I understand that early church leaders kind of set that date to assist pagans in leaving their old practices by substituting Christian-related activities for the old ones, and over time many of the old  pagan practices have taken on Christian meanings and been incorporated into the Christmas tradition.  The Christian folks who object to the celebration of Christmas based on those facts do have a point.  I myself sometimes have trouble with the 'Jesus is the Reason for the Season' thinking. Yes, He is the reason I celebrate the season, but folks were celebrating that season in different ways for a long time before Christ was associated with it.  Personally, I don't care so much what date he was born; the fact that he WAS born...that he came for the purpose of redemption and reconciliation, knowing the cost, is enough for me to celebrate and worship.

So, given all of that, how should Christians deal with the increasing secularization of Christmas and the attempts by the retail industry to include (and gain profit from) diverse religious groups who are celebrating holidays other than Christmas during that time of the year?

May I ever so gently suggest that sign-waving, boycotts, and indignant emails may not be the best means of conveying the hope and message of Christmas to folks who Just Don't Get It? 

Because, what is really important in the observation of Christmas anyway?  As the Grinch learned, it isn't the trappings and trees and lights, it's that Christ came to us.  How we treat each other is a greater reflection of that message than how loudly we may declare to the world around us that they should get their secular hands off our religious holiday.

Jesus didn't come so we could have Our Own Religion; he came so that anyone could come to him and find freedom and deliverance and healing and joy.

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