I’m about to upset and challenge many of my friends and fellow believers.
Every year like clockwork I watch social media light up with catchy slogans and news stories about how Christ is being taken out of Christmas. Most of them center on the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I see many of my friends repost these with glee, because they believe that it shows their real faith and pride in being a Christian.
But every year I grow more and more uneasy with this annual rite of my fellow believers. Why? Because honestly, I don’t think Christ cares if we call it Christmas or if we call it a holiday. It isn’t a holiday in the bible. It isn’t a feast or a celebration that the early church followed. It is something we created, so that we have a place to celebrate him. That’s the important part–that we remember and celebrate what He has done for us. Not what we call it.
I tend to say Happy Holidays most of the time, except around the week of Christmas. Why? Because I have lots of friends and family of differing faiths and beliefs. Am I to exclude my Jewish friends simply by saying Merry Christmas all of the time? What about my Muslim and Buddhist friends? Does Christ not love them too? Does he call us to brazenly separate ourselves from them? Are we to ignore Hannakuh altogether, as if the Jews weren’t his people too? For me, saying Happy Holidays is just natural. It isn’t a political correctness or any kind of ploy–it is simply showing respect to those people in my life that I love who celebrate different holidays.
The Christ I know is more interested in what I’m doing than what I’m saying. He is more interested in the fact that I show him and his love through my actions to those who aren’t Christians than that I go around using a man-made title for a holiday that He didn’t create. He is more interested in my taking time to spend with him; to seek him; to use the holiday to love on others; to love on my family; to spread the glory of his name. I don’t need the word “Christmas” to do that–I do it with my actions. He is more interested in my not taking offense lightly, by choosing to not be offended by those who differ from me in beliefs and practices. Jesus is also more interested in my being a missionary to the world–in moving beyond Christian circles to bring his light and his gospel to those of differing faiths and cultures, including agnostics and athiests right here at home. He doesn’t require the word Christmas for me to do that–he requires my obedience and willingness to go be a light amongst those whose faiths differ from my own.
God has always spoken to us in our own language. He has used words we would deem offensive now to describe himself. Take the word Holy. You may know that it’s original meaning was to be ‘set apart for the use of God.’ But did you know that when He first applied that word to describing himself, that ‘holy’ typically meant the prostitutes at shrine temples? He used a word typically used for something very profane to describe himself. Why? Because he knew the people of the time would know what it meant. That he was set apart from all others. That He is different. That Holy is to be used for God and God alone. God has always cared more about the message, than the words. That’s why I’m convinced that God isn’t so interested in how we say the holiday’s name, as he is in what we convey when we say it. Are our actions backing up the words we say? Does our battle and offense over the word Christmas spread the gospel, or does it hinder it?
In fact, many historians believe that Christmas became a Christian holiday as early Christians sought to reach out to the pagans surrounding them. They used the language and practices of non-believers to reach them with the gospel. They took a pagan feast, and inserted the gospel message into it, turning the pagan tradition into a tool for evangelism. What we consider now as a sacred day was once a controversial tool for evangelism to those who celebrated differently. THAT is what God wants. As he says in Matthew 10:16, we are to “be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”
Christmas is dear to me, and always will be. It became even more dear once I discovered what it meant to follow Christ. I celebrate it and encourage others to. I love worshiping at Christmas and using it as a tool to build the spiritual lives of my children. Yet I strongly believe that God doesn’t care about Christmas as much as we do. He cares about us taking time to rest. He is excited that we take a day t0 focus on him. He cares that he gets a chance to spread the Good News every year. But really, the holiday could be skipped if we were doing those things throughout the year. If we as Christians spent half the energy we spend on defending the word Christmas to do those things that bring joy to Christ, then we wouldn’t need the day any more. The day is for us. It is a gift to us. Let’s treat it as such, and stop getting so offended over something that doesn’t offend Christ.