Merry CHRISTmas, everybody!
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year when Joy to the World is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But for a lot of believers in the Lord Jesus, when an agenda-driven progressive liberal atheist bids a “Happy Holidays,” it makes them want to Deck (more than) the Halls.
I am undoubtedly and proudly a believer in the Lord Jesus as well, but I’m not inclined to summon the reindeer that ran over grandma to dance on the liberal’s backs when they offer a less than Jesus-y greeting.
Here are three(ish) reasons why:
REASON NUMBER ONE: There ARE, you know, other holidays (Part 1)
The “Happy Holidays” mantra usually picks up around Thanksgiving. It’s the beginning of the holiday season. Christmas is on December 25. But the period of time between Thanksgiving (sheesh…increasingly it’s Halloween) and New Year’s is sort of set apart as the holiday season. Starbucks starts selling those gross lattes and towns hang snowflakes on their light poles. When someone says “Happy Holidays,” many of them are passing on an appropriate (and plural) holiday greeting.
That does not make it wrong to say “Merry Christmas” two days after Thanksgiving, but neither does it make the person who says “Happy Holidays” a no-good communist. Relax. Accept–heck, maybe even return–their warm Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s greetings.
REASON NUMBER TWO: There ARE, you know, other holidays (Part 2)
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone is commemorating the bombing of Pearl Harbor when they hand you your change and wish you Happy Holidays. Unless you’re in the extreme northeast U.S. or Canada no one is thinking of Boxing Day. But on December 17th when Hanukkah is being celebrated by millions of Jewish people, should we really get bent out of shape when the the teller at the bank tells us “Happy Holidays?” I mean, how do they know whether or not we’re Jewish?
Unless of course we are pounding a BLT when we make our deposits in the drive thru, in which case the bank teller needs to study up a little bit. All I’m saying is most people walking around in mid December don’t know what you celebrate, so they’re not trying to kick Baby Jesus out of the manger. If they tell you Happy Hanukkah on December 25, you can correct them (it ends on December 24th this year), but otherwise, relax.
REASON NUMBER THREE: “Holidays” Means “Holy Days”
If you hate my first two reasons and are the kind of person who prefers a “Take that, Liberals!” reason, I’ve got one just for you:
The word “holiday” is derived from a word that means, well, Holy Day. It’s been used since at least the twelfth century, and there’s really no way around it. So while there may actually be a few folks trying to take Christ out of Christmas, they’ve got a long way to go before they can strip the theology out of our seasonal greetings completely.
Jokes on you, Happy Holidays Guy…you’re practically bowing at the manger! Silly atheist.
BONUS REASON: It’s Not That Big of a Deal
Just in the past month, I’ve had lots of people tell me “Merry Christmas.” Some of them were workers in big corporations that are normally purposefully generic. I’ve even seen–gasp–signage in stores that has the name of our Savior included on it. Plenty of Christmas cards are available. If anything, Christ is more present than the rest of the year, not less.
I really don’t see a battle raging here. In fact, the Washington Post recently declared the War on Christmas as over, noting that even non-religious people prefer to be told “Merry Christmas by a 3-to-1 margin. So the next time someone tells you “Happy Holidays” don’t sneer “Merry Christmas” back into their face. Instead, ask them what they’re doing for the holidays and start a conversation that is not contentious and might actually lead to you talking about Jesus, not you feeling grouchy about the pending Godless takeover.
(ANOTHER) BONUS REASON: We Did Kind of Steal It
No one can be certain why we started celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, but we can be relatively sure it wasn’t because He was actually born that day. The early church argued a lot about when to celebrate.
Maybe they picked it to redeem the common Roman winter festivals when light overcame darkness shortly after the shortest day of the year. Maybe they picked it purposefully at the end of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah because Jesus was the Light of the World. Maybe they picked it because it was nine months (supposedly) after Mary was told she’d give birth to a child. We don’t know. And as unspiritual as it may sound, there’s nothing sacred about 12/25. Some Eastern Christians still celebrate Jesus’ birth on January 6 because they use the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian one. They aren’t exactly liberal for doing so, are they?
In other words, we sort of adopted December 25 like we did Sunday. It used to be just another day. Now it’s really important to Christians. That’s all good. But we shouldn’t get super defensive about it. Jesus probably wasn’t even born that day.
LAST BONUS REASON: You can’t take Christ out of Christmas
You can take the word “Christmas” out of a greeting, but you can’t remove Christ from Christmas. It is a holiday that stands on its own merit, one no amount of marketing and effort can destroy.
Jesus is who He said He was, and as such I don’t think He’s super offended when people say “Happy Holidays.” I don’t think He’d be super interested in correcting their phrase-ology or staging a boycott. Instead, I think he’d be interested in learning their name, having some eggnog, and showing them who He was.
As Christ followers, I think we ought to do the same thing. Or, if you’re still feeling a little grumpy about the whole thing, start wishing people a Happy Incarnation Day.
That’ll show ‘em.