I love Christmas! It is a season full of meaning and expectation. Christmas is about the big and grand story that God cares so much about this world that he created that he enters into this world in the person of Jesus in order to redeem it and transform it. “The Word became flesh, entered into our neighborhood.” The news doesn’t get any better than this. We believe that the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Jesus Christ.
This is also a very frustrating season for me. When I was a pastor each Advent and Christmas season I had the opportunity of being able to tell this big story to people in the congregation where I served. The season is crazy and full. Yes, but, the story of Christmas is overwhelming and joyous. I never got tired of telling the story.
But now, without a place to preach, I feel this story rising within me with few places to shout it out. I don’t know. Do I stand on a street corner? Do I make random phone calls? Do I blog about it? “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us! It is the best story.
So, I get a bit grumpy when this season’s greeting gets neutered down to Happy Holidays. The story is too big and too fantastic for such a meager phrase.
I know that Christians have not always had a great track record with those who are of other faiths or no faith. Sometimes, strangely, throughout history, Christians have wielded swords and clubs to deliver the message peace and love. In the United States, what some mistakenly term a Christian nation, the message of Jesus has been forced on others, and those of other faiths feel besieged.
I want to be sensitive to those of other faiths, to minority faiths. It is easy for a dominant religion to run roughshod over others. That simply is not acceptable. And still, I do not want to be so politically correct that this amazing season is emptied of its meaning.
So for me the greeting during this season is Merry Christmas! To those who share my beliefs and to those who do not. Merry Christmas must never become a sword or a club with an “in your face” message. We must be understanding and gentle towards those around us.
But Merry Christmas can be, and for me is, a simple declaration, maybe even a blessing. Merry Christmas means: may the gifts of this season, whatever your own convictions, be rich and abundant in your life. Without making people take sides; without having to make a militant stance, might we simply offer to others gifts of peace, of hope, of love.
“Happy Holidays” just doesn’t convey the big story. It depreciates the big story. “Merry Christmas,” offered with humility, can be a gifting to others recalling a deep and rich story of God’s goodness to us, and driving us to be loving and hospitable towards each other.
So–Merry Christmas to you!