Watch What You Say

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

I was on my way to an appointment the other day when I saw it… a house all decked out in Christmas lights but with those dreaded words “Happy Holidays” shining defiantly in the window. How dare they, I thought to myself, this is Christmas after all, not some kind of winter solstice! We might as well resort to using that politically correct seasons greeting we’ve all heard about…

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

Wishing people a happy holidays! What has this world come to? Can you believe that? But wait a minute, is it really that big a deal? Does it really matter what we say to people this time of year? Do we always have to wish them a Merry Christmas? Michael McKinely, over at IX Marks Ministries, doesn’t seem to think so…

It’s that time of year when Christians get worked up about “the war on Christmas” (you know what I mean, the fact that the complete stranger selling you cable-knit sweaters at Old Navy has been instructed to wish you “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”).  I honestly thought the sturm und drang on this issue had been played out, but it keeps popping up.

Now, I think it’s silly for unbelievers to be offended by being wished “Merry Christmas” and I am no fan of the inanities of political correct speak… but I wish people “Happy Holidays” sometimes.  And though something in me wonders if I’ll take heat for saying it, I think people who are upset about this situation should probably relax a little.  Five reasons:

1.    Is it wrong not to assume that strangers are believers? I have a category in my mind that the person I meet at the grocery store might be a Hindu, Jew, or Buddhist who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.  I would find it odd (though admittedly, not offensive) if someone wished me “Happy Diwali”.

2.    I don’t really care what retailers instruct their cashiers to say.  If they think they’ll make more money by saying “Happy Holidays”, that’s fine.  They’re not a church, they are in the business of selling you junk that you don’t need.  I’m more concerned with the wages they pay their employees and in their factories.

3.    The outrage over “Happy Holidays” seems to be motivated at least in part by a sadness that things have changed in our culture (though the folks over at Psychology Today think it has something to do with the allure of victimhood).  But one way or the other (to modify the words of Rick Pitino) Ward Cleaver isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.

4.    The phrase “Happy Holidays” can refer to a season.  It’s an easy way of saying “I hope you enjoy the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day when everything is a little different in a good way”.

5.    The word “Christmas” is nowhere in the Bible.  So, in one sense, I don’t feel like I have to have a dog in this fight.  The gospel is offensive enough, I don’t need to go looking for things with which to alienate my neighbors.

I am all for focusing our attention on Jesus as “the reason for the season” and all. And of course it does matter what we say, but it also matters how we say it. And so the next time we want to stand up for our faith, let’s try to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). What do you think?

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