“They’ve taken God out of the schools and all public life. We can’t allow them to take Christ out of Christmas!” our friend worriedly exclaimed.
Like many fundamentalists and evangelicals, our friend is protective of our favorite holiday, and she’s unwilling to share it with any except dyed-in-the-wool, bona fide, Bible-believing Christians. She regards us as mildly heretical, but she knows how much we love Christmas, so she’s willing to give us the benefit of the doubt that our Christian credentials are bona fide. At least at Christmas time.
As are so many of our fellow believers, our friend is genuinely alarmed by the widespread use of “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas,” in seasonal advertising and, to a lesser extent, in common greetings. She’s not just putting on a show or making noise just to cause trouble. She’s genuinely upset and concerned.
She’s afraid that the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, New Age seekers, atheists and secular humanists are trying to snuff out her religion. She’s afraid that those whom she regards as infidels are hell-bent on highjacking one of Christianity’s great holidays. The consequence of this, she fears, will be dire for the country, the world and the millions of souls who will be eternally lost. To make it all worse, there’s the matter of it being out of her cultural comfort zone.
No doubt, many Muslims would like to snuff out Christianity, just like many Christians would like to snuff out Islam. Similarly, many conservatives would like to quash all progressive ideas, and Red Sox fans would like to silence all support for the Yankees. It’s the way some people are. It’s the way a lot of people are.
Intolerance abounds on all sides. We received some chain emails over the past few weeks urging us to boycott businesses that use “Happy Holidays” in their advertising or store displays. President Trump even saw fit to do a little demagoguing on the subject. Then too, we also received several emails urging us to boycott businesses that use “Merry Christmas." C’mon. This is all pretty goofy right?
Our dermatologist is Jewish. At this time of year he displays Jewish religious symbols in his office and posts a sign on the door that reads “Happy Hanukah.” He puts a few children’s books in his waiting room that feature stories about the Hanukah Man, a mythical holiday figure who very closely resembles Santa Claus—right down to the red suit. He’s sort of a mixed bag of holiday cheer. We’re pretty sure he harbors no malice for us or our faith, and we don’t feel at all like religious traitors because we let him treat a rash or sell us a tar shampoo. We don’t think the children of his Christian patients are at all harmed by taking peppermint sticks from the bowl he keeps at the front desk.
A recent national poll indicates that 22% of non-Christians take offense when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas. We suspect those folks aren’t really offended. We think they’re just faking it for effect. If someone tells us to go to hell, we take offense. If they tell us to have a good time, we don’t. We suspect it’s the same with everyone.
We are Christians. Not only do we believe in the Good News of the gospels as our friend understands it, we also believe in the Really Great News of universal salvation. News that every soul in all the world who loves the good and lives his faith has been redeemed by Christ—salvation for every man and woman of every place and time throughout all the world, no matter which religious tradition, if any, they now embrace. Now, that is news worth celebrating!
This means that our Jewish doctor is saved, our Muslim friend Ahmed is saved, our agnostic friend Julia is saved, and all of our Christian friends as well. We celebrate the birth of their Savior, and ours, at Christmas.
We appreciate that our optimistic theology isn’t shared by everyone. Like we said, our friend thinks us mildly heretical. Still, it's hard to understand our friend’s need to possess Christmas for herself and her fellow believers. Like the Gospel itself, it is the spirit of Christmas that makes it so joyous—a spirit of goodwill toward men. All men.
Our friend is sweet, but at times she misses the point. Christmas really isn’t for Christians. Christmas is for Christ, and Christ is for all mankind.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all from Perkerson Park Press!
—Prentice & Mary Ann