Archive for the ‘War on Christmas’ Tag

Merry Christmas 2015   2 comments

Yesterday evening I bought my last Christmas present for 2015. I generally finish my shopping before Thanksgiving, but I was watching for a special item for my sister-in-law and I finally found it.

On my way out, the clerk said “Happy Holidays”. I replied “You have a Merry Christmas.” She didn’t seem to care or even notice — I’m sure she’s been saying “Happy Holidays” to every customer for weeks now and she’s just in rote mode at this point.

Last December I was squirreling around on Facebook looking at some daughter-related things and I ran across posts by some friend of hers complaining about a local small business where the clerks say “Merry Christmas.” This young lady is certain that “most customers” are being “psychologically damaged” by being “forced” to participate in “the Jesus myth”. She accused Christians of not even following their own Bibles (“Christmas celebration is forbidden”) and of “ruining” Christmas with their “political agenda”.

I didn’t respond then (I think Christmas got in the way), but I ran across my notes on it last week, so I have decided to use this week to show the other side of the argument.

 

Merry Christmas – If you believe it, say it!   Leave a comment

The other day, I ran across a blog that suggested that anyone annoyed by the insistence about the “generic” term “Happy Holidays” was a lunatic fringe idiot — AKA Christian who believes in make-believe.

I’m not going to attempt to mount an argument against atheism … at the moment. There’s plenty of evidence to support the existence of something greater than ourselves and I’m not talking about an impersonal, uncaring universe. It’s the personal, loving God of the Bible. But that’s another post or 50.

Right now, I’m talking about Christmas and why it is important for Christians to say what we believe.

I truly believe that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, born of Mary, and I celebrate that birth this time of year. I don’t celebrate “holy days”. I celebrate a single holy day. Yes, there is a holiday season when Christians and Jews celebrate at approximately the same time. I’ve celebrated Hanukkah with friends who are Jewish. Those friends are welcome at my house at Christmas. To me, Hanukkah is cultural party. There may be religious significance to it for my Jewish friends — although generally actual observant Jews do not choose to live in Alaska or hang out with evangelical Christians, so my Jewish friends tend to be more cultural than faithful Jews. One of them is a baptized evangelical himself, who incorporates his Jewish culture in with his Christian faith. Ron tells me Hanukkah is not, in his opinion, a particularly religious holiday and so he’s bothered by the “holy days” reference too. But there are others, I’m sure, who feel differently and that’s fine. As a civil libertarian, I am fundamentally opposed to statist attempts to force people to participate in religions they don’t believe in.

But, I digress.

There is also a season of shopping and merriment that takes place this time of year. Here in Alaska, the solstice is a big deal for us. It’s even a big deal for me because the three shortest days of the year mean the days will start getting longer tomorrow, the 23rd, and Alaskans are pretty sun-deprived by mid-December. Did you know the 20th, 21st and 22nd of December all have exactly the same number of hours and minutes of sunlight? Alaskans track these things as a part of our culture, but these are not holy days — shopping, getting drunk and shooting off fireworks are pretty secular, as far as I can tell. North Pole, Alaska, is only 10 miles from my house and Santa’s Workshop is a business.

So, I’m not greeting the season either. I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. If I truly believe that Jesus Christ is God, worthy of my honor and worship, then I must also take seriously that He commands that I put no other gods before Him. That would include Saturn, Sol, and Santa. I need to divine what is cultural from what is sacred. I also need to obey God and be “in the world, but not of it.”

It would be easier to just say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”, to go along with the culture that insists these are generic greetings that don’t offend anyone. The difficulty lies in the gut check I feel that says it offends God when I say it.

If I met Jesus in the flesh tomorrow, would I say “My Lord and my God” or would I say “Hey, one of my cultural icons”? I know that I would say “My Lord and my God”. But if I wimp out and join the herd in pretending that there’s nothing more to this season than merriment and shopping, then I’m denying that Jesus is my God in a very person and subtle way. Others might not notice, but do I seek to please people or to please my God. If my God notices, then I should care.

Because I believe that my freedom of religion relies on the freedom of religion of my society, I do not believe in forcing others in joining in my religious practice. So I don’t object to the store clerk saying “Happy Holidays” to me. That’s not my place. However, to honor my God and put the emphasis of this season where I believe it should be, I say “Merry Christmas”, even when it’s not comfortable, even when my society says I’m wrong.

Christians of the 2nd and 3rd century were herded into arenas so non-believers could watch them be torn limb-from-limb by wild beasts. Their society decided that it was okay to do that because they were “in the world, but not of it”. They could have hidden their Christianity, lied, pretended, but they didn’t. In following generations, time after time, the Roman Catholic Church persecuted what they called “heretics”. Likely these were Christians who still retained the nascent faith of the early church without the layers of extra-Biblical trappings that had been added. History records an awful lot of “heretics” killed, until they were finally identified as “protestants” in the 14th-15th centuries. They didn’t go along to get along and they died for their faith.

All I have to face is maybe some strange looks when I return “Happy Holidays” with a smile and a “Merry Christmas”. If I’m ruining somebody’s day by “offending” them, then well, that’s their problem, not mine. The Bible says Jesus Christ will be an offense to the world, so I’m not doing anything that Christian before me didn’t do with a whole lot more courage. Right now, the chilling effect aimed at what Christians believe doesn’t rise to the level of persecution. It’s more like people think that can end Christianity by making it socially unacceptable. With all due respect to my atheist and secular friends, Christianity has withstood a whole lot more than what you are currently dishing out.

Christians, instead of being offended by the “generic greeting”, we should be emboldened by it. When we return it with “Merry Christmas” we are speaking up for our beliefs and gently asserting our place in the American culture. We do not need to keep what we believe hidden from those who have chosen to be offended by it. Freedom of religion still exists in this country, so exercise it. If you believe that we celebrate Christ’s birth this time of year and God has laid it on your heart to care about that, then don’t wimp out and let the world make you part of it. Be in the world, but not of it.

If you believe it, say it.

Merry Christmas!!

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