The War on Christmas (part 1)

“Happy holidays!”  Who knew that a joyous greeting could generate such a strong response?

No doubt, you’re acquainted with the apparent “war on Christmas” being waged far and wide – whether company policy for a cashier to say “Happy Holidays,” or the apparent necessity that a popular coffee chain needs to have snowflakes and reindeer on their red holiday cups in order to be “Christmas” cups.

Have we lost our minds?

Granted.  The word “holiday” is actually a contraction of “holy day” – and in my book, the only days that might be considered “holy days” are those that celebrate the life and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  

But for some reason, there’s an (unreasonable?) expectation that major corporations hold to the same set of Christian beliefs that I do – and that those beliefs need to be constantly re-echoed in business transactions and disposable cups…

…but why?  So that I may rest easy in my belief that our nation, our country, our culture is still “Christian,” and that everyone understands Christmas is about the birth of Jesus?  So that I exercise my right to not be offended?  So that I can be outraged, yet not inconvenienced (by finding my coffee or doing my Christmas shopping somewhere else?)

“Happy holidays!”  Our calendars include many other national holidays (Flag Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, MLK Jr. Day, etc) – yet this particular phrase, “Happy Holidays,” is typically reserved for the 40+ days from Thanksgiving through Epiphany.  In popular use, the phrase “happy holidays” is an umbrella encompassing Christmas - and every other “holiday” falling within that time period, no matter how un-Christian its origins.  

And the whole debate really serves to highlight the ironic contradictions within American Christianity (or, rather, what our news media broadcasts as “Christian”).  Pardon me as I speak in broad, sweeping generalizations - but perhaps there’s an element of truth in this caricature:

  • At the same time, a person might be upset that they hear “Happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”…yet spends far more time teaching their kids about Santa & taking their kids to see Santa than teaching their children about Jesus or bringing and sitting with their kids to hear about Jesus;
  • Perhaps a person gets upset about Starbucks cups lacking snowflakes and reindeer (because these decorations make a cup into a Christ-centered cup, right?) … and that same person is wonderfully consistent in their concept of Christmas as they forego any Advent discussion in favor of elves on shelves and encouraging their kids to work their way onto Santa’s “nice” list;
  • Many of the same Christians who assert “Merry Christmas” at the checkout line might come to church for Christmas - and then not darken its doors again until Easter (maybe).  The words declare that Christmas isn’t about the feeling, it’s about Christ; yet the actions reveal that Christmas wasn’t really about Christ, but rather about the feel-good tradition.  (If Christmas were really about Christ, then the third Sunday of January would also be about Christ…assuming that the church actually preaches Jesus Christ as our atonement for our sin);
  • Or, most ironic of all: A Christian who would say that differences in doctrine shouldn’t matter, and that a confession of faith should be limited to the bare minimum of basic Christian teaching…at the same time s/he recognizes that one’s confession of faith is declared both by what’s said AS WELL AS what’s left unsaid.  (Because leaving “Merry Christmas” unsaid declares that Christmas is only one among many equally valid holidays; yet Jesus Christ lived and died for all people, across all lines of race, culture, class, etc.)

Where is the war on Christmas?  Where is this war being fought?  Does such a “war” exist?

A generation ago, greetings of “Merry Christmas” seemed more common.  That did not make our country more Christian.  A generation ago, our nation’s laws were more closely aligned with God’s moral law; but those laws did not make us a Christian nation.

It’s the same basic question: What makes us Christian?  How do we (individually, or as families, churches, a nation) retain our Christianity?  By teaching about Jesus Christ at every opportunity – Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, born as a human baby while retaining his divinity; Jesus, whose life & death & resurrection have won your forgiveness.

Merry Christmas.