During the holiday season there’s a commercial from a well-known local businessman that runs in this area. At the end, he states “You won’t hear us saying ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings.’ It’s ‘Merry Christmas’ here, because Jesus is the reason for the season.”
I imagine there are those who will see this businessman’s definitive proclamation as a courageous stand against the ever-increasing secular encroachment on a sacred holiday. Some will applaud the statement as a re-affirmation of the True meaning, and an attempt to “take back” Christmas from the heathen thieves who’ve stolen it.
After all, ‘tis the season for the annual declarations of an “Unholy War,” warning us that Christ is being taken out of Christmas, and enlisting zealous foot soldiers to police holiday greetings and marketing campaigns, making sure “Merry Christmas” is prominent and preeminent.
“Don we now our combat apparel...”
According to the Mistletoe Militia, “Merry Christmas” is the proper…and ONLY…method of acknowledgement. In other words, even though December 25th is a holiday, and it’s supposed to be joyous, if my greeting is “Happy Holidays,” I’ve struck a blow for the enemy...whoever that is. Likewise, even though this is considered a season of celebration, I cannot use the word “season” in my greeting…else I reinforce the opposition’s propaganda.
Well, I didn't enlist in this so-called war.
I declare myself as a Conscientious Objector, and I refuse to fight!
Instead, I’d like to propose an alternative strategy: rather than defining (and defending) a singular “Reason” for the season, why not exercise some REASON to the Season?
If we allow reason to prevail, we must concede Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25; it was probably in the Spring, but the actual date was “acquired” by Christians from pagan roots. (In that sense, Christmas is about Jesus in the same way Presidents Day is about the birth of George Washington.) In fact, many of our Christmas traditions—the tree, mistletoe, ornaments, Santa, gifts, holly bushes, etc.—have their origin in pagan cultures, and have been incorporated (and often “christianized”) into our festivities.
Reason tells us that people of other faiths (or no faith) also celebrate during this time year—Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Solstice, to name a few.
Will we deny them their traditions, forcing them to parrot words unrelated to their beliefs?
Is there “no room at the Inn” for the observances of others?
And reason shows us that not everyone celebrates Christmas the same; it’s many things to many people. It’s decorations, caroling, Christmas Eve service at church, or a gathering with the family. It’s cooking...and eating. Some like the elaborate; others favor simplicity. Some want a live tree, others opt for artificial. There are silly songs about wanting a hippopotamus, or two front teeth along with sacred hymns reminding of the Savior’s birth. We’ll hear Andy Williams, Mariah Carey and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Some like to read The Night Before Christmas, while others recite the Nativity Story. There are gifts, parties, cards and sappy movies. And so much food. (Give me a moment to ponder the food!)
So what we have are people investing significant time, energy and emotion into re-claiming a holiday that never entirely belong to us in the first place. In short, if we’re reasonable, (minus the frenzied rantings of those who seem intent only at stirring up emotion to garner more listeners, donations, viewers or book sales), we must admit that the season is more than Jesus.
I’m certainly not in favor of taking Christ out of Christmas. As a Christian, I recognize (and observe) this time of year as Advent—a commemoration of the birth of Jesus. I love the story and embrace it as an important aspect of my faith. But it’s not reasonable to try and make the holiday some kind of private club for “us” and not “them.” I think that idea contradicts the angels’ inclusive announcement:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2: 10, 14 NASB)
When we say that Jesus is THE reason for the season, and put down others for their holiday greetings, we may think we’re being pious, but mostly we just sound pompous, elitist and dismissive.
If we don’t have the good will to allow others their own holiday traditions, if we feel we must spend our time correcting the greetings of others, if we get upset when someone wishes us "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," if can’t experience joy in the diversity of all the happy celebrations, if we can’t show grace to those around us, if we can’t pursue “Peace on Earth” in the midst of this imaginary war, and if we don’t understand that the birth of Christ is about more than the words we use in our salutations, then we are the ones who’ve missed the meaning of Christmas! Indeed, it is we who need to examine our reason for the season.