Okay, let’s get this straight, once and for all.
Christians are always going to be at odds with “the world” in certain ways. The Bible calls us to humility, sacrifice, and generosity, and there will always be people who will take advantage of that. There will always be forms of persecution and ridicule aimed at us, and we need to be prepared for it.
But, my fellow Christians, could we please stop making up persecution where it doesn’t exist?
For years I’ve been hearing American Christians complain about a so-called “war on Christmas.” They’re upset when secular retailers wish people “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas,” and they view it as evidence that our society is trying to take Jesus out of the most important holiday of the year. In response, they write letters and stage angry protests to pressure these stores and their employees to say “Christmas” as much as possible. Merry Christmas. Light the Christmas tree. Shove people out of the way for the Christmas sale. And don’t you dare abbreviate it “Xmas,” or you might as well be defacing nativity scenes.
“After all,” they remind us, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
As a committed Christian, I find so many things wrong with this that I almost don’t know where to start.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with “happy holidays.” There are multiple holidays celebrated around this time of year. Here in America, the period of time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is often called “the holiday season,” and though it includes and focuses on Christmas, it’s not only Christmas people celebrate.
Secondly, not everyone is a Christian. Acknowledging that non-Christians are celebrating this season too isn’t just respectful; it’s also important if I actually care about the spiritual meaning of the season at all.
If you don’t believe in Jesus, why on earth would I want to force you to refer to him as if you did? Isn’t that like forcing non-Christians to put “Jesus fish” on their car as a fashion statement? Let’s face it; “Christmas” has become a big secular celebration for gift-giving in our culture. For me, though, Christmas is something more: a time to reflect on the most important gift God has given me in the form of Jesus Christ. If someone else wants to swap Target gift cards on that day and say “happy holidays,” I’m okay with that. I’d honestly rather that they didn’t feel the need to refer to my Savior if he means nothing to them. Otherwise, wouldn’t it be like a form of taking the Lord’s name in vain?
That’s especially true for the big secular retailers. What does buying a flat-screen TV have to do with worshiping the guy who told a rich man to give all he had to the poor? As far as I’m concerned, shopping malls can call this time of year whatever they want. Just leave Christ out of it. I don’t really want to see Jesus as the unpaid celebrity endorser for Walmart.
And while we’re on the subject, no, Jesus isn’t entirely the “reason for the season.” Roman winter solstice festivals in late December predate the observation of Christmas. Historians argue about whether the church chose December 25 for Jesus’ birth in order to coincide with those festivals or whether it was for other, more theological reasons, but it seems certain that many elements of today’s Christmas celebrations (like that Christmas tree) actually come from pagan celebrations, not Christian ones. And let’s be honest here. From a theological standpoint, Easter is the more significant holiday, because that’s when Jesus rose again, conquering death once and for all and bringing us all delicious marshmallow Peeps—argh! No, that’s wrong. See what happens when you don’t distinguish the sacred from the secular?
Oh, and “Xmas”? It isn’t, as some have thought, an attempt to “take the Christ out of Christmas.” It comes from an old practice by Christians of using the Greek letter “X” (chi) to represent “Christ.” Chi (which looks like an “X”) and rho (which looks like a “P”) are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, and are often used together in Christian art as a symbol of Jesus.
So go ahead, wish me “happy holidays.” Or “merry Christmas.” (Or “happy Christmas” if you’re British.) As for me, I’m celebrating two holidays on December 25. One of them is a religious reflection on the goodness of God and the birth of my Savior. The other is a loud, showy secular holiday with Santa Claus, wasteful spending, and too much food. They’re both called Christmas, but hey, if you wanted to call that second one something else with no relation to Jesus, I wouldn’t mind that one bit.