Signs of the Season
I was driving home yesterday when I pulled up at a stop light behind a minivan. On the rear window of the van was a shiny new bumper sticker with the message “We Say Merry CHRISTmas.” Ah yes, another sign of the season. This is the time when, egged on by watchdog groups telling us who to boycott, many Christians get quite upset if they see or hear the words “Happy Holidays.” For a number of reasons I’ve never been comfortable with that obsession.
At the most basic level, it misunderstands the word holiday, which is a combining of the words holy and day. What can be wrong in calling Christmas a holy day?
Then too, like it or not, there are a great many people who do not celebrate the same things we do. This is also the season where the Jewish festival of Hanukkah is celebrated. (Actually Hanukkah is quite early this year, it started on Thanksgiving night.) Others celebrate Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice. There is something ironic when we celebrate the birth of a Savior born in a lowly manger by insisting that people who believe differently than us need to do things our way.
Also, even for Christians, this season varies. Many churches, like mine, celebrate Advent. Others mark Epiphany. Historically the famous 12 days of Christmas were more than the subject of a song; they were feast days celebrating some aspect of the season. Want a great seasonal study for your kids? Do some research on the feast days of the Christmas season and share the stories of their roots with them. And, yes, there are even Christians who think celebrating anything to mark the birth of Jesus is wrong, even sinful.
In spite of this, many Christians, thanks to Fox News and those aforementioned watchdog groups, feel the need to defend Christmas for some largely imaginary attack. We celebrate the day when the angels were singing “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” by moving into war mode.
What do you say? Should we not bother to draw battle lines this year? Should we skip boycotts of stores that say Happy Holidays? Can we take off the bumper stickers that declare our intention to wish them a Merry Christmas no matter what they believe? Someone who says Happy Holidays is not your enemy. Can we call a truce in the war, particularly as most people we encounter don’t even know there is a war?
I’m going to be saying Happy Holidays a lot this year, particularly when I don’t know the faith of those I am with. It is simply a way to show grace and kindness. Of course, I will be saying Merry Christmas too. But let’s see if we can avoid using it as a battle cry.