OBJECTING TO THE TRADITIONAL GREETING
IS SELF-CENTERED AND UNGRACIOUS
It’s that wonderful time of year once more when sugarplum fairies are dancing, and angry secularists are out looking for a fight. Indeed, it just wouldn’t seem like our annual feast of love and joy if somebody didn’t have his nose out of joint over the traditional yuletide greeting, “Merry Christmas!”
Yes, you’ll hear that the “War on Christmas” is only a gimmick ginned up by conservative think tanks and activist groups — a mere headline on all those yearend fund-raising letters…
How can there be a “war” on something that dominates our lives between Halloween and New Years, and accounts for the bulk of fourth-quarter corporate earnings? That idea is nothing but a straw man, a piece of phony baloney, you rightwing nutcase!
Then how come it’s now “holiday” trees being illuminated in front of state capitol buildings? How come I keep hearing “Happy Holidays!” from the greeters at Walmart?
Oh, it’s just a matter of not offending people who don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s all. Get with the program, you narrow-minded jerk. American society is multi-cultural today. Christians don’t have the right to force their religious observance on everybody else.
And there, my friends, is the fundamental misunderstanding behind the whole “Merry Christmas” controversy.
A case can be made — Lord knows, the ACLU has made it, over and over again — that manger scenes on public property contravene the separation of church and state. This situation isn’t really mitigated by setting up a menorah next to the crèche. Not everyone who isn’t Christian is Jewish, of course. Anyway, Chanukah moves around and doesn’t always coincide with Christmas (this year it started on Thanksgiving).
Campaigns to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” pursued vigorously over the years by groups such as the Lutheran Walther League and the Catholic Knights of Columbus, have helped to remind the faithful of this holiday’s spiritual core. But they’ve proven little more than rearguard actions against encroaching materialism while giving substance to secularist complaints about how the churches are too in-your-face with Christmas advocacy.
The answer to the “Merry Christmas!” controversy lies in the holiday itself. And here we must look at origins.
Christmas is the great festival of our culture, not to mention of our consumer economy. And what we celebrate isn’t the winter solstice or the ancient Roman festival of Sol Invictus, both of which played into the timing of the holiday. No, Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus. Its signature element, exchanging gifts, was inspired by God’s gift to us of his human incarnation, the Christ Child, as well as by the gifts brought to the stable in Bethlehem by the Wise Men.
Now, you may not believe that any of that stuff actually happened. You can dismiss it all as so much pious myth. But those are the roots nonetheless.
And while, over the centuries, Christmas has taken on a wild array of cultural trappings, the birth of Jesus remains its central motif, despite fierce competition from shopping. No matter how extensively the holiday has been reconfigured to meet secular commercial aims, Christmas remains Christian in its essence.
(Incidentally, I would urge Christians to stop moaning about commercialization. The merchandizing potential of this holiday has been indispensable in giving Christmas a cultural prominence and social punch unequaled by Easter, the actual highest holy day of the Church year.)
The point is: Christmas is mine — mine, as a Christian — and if it’s not yours, that’s tough.
When I wish you “Merry Christmas!” I’m wishing that you might share in the blessings I perceive in the coming of God into the world. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care to use the expression. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t believe in God.
Saying “Merry Christmas!” is not forcing some unwanted religious observance on you. It’s me offering you a token of good will in reference to something I value. In other words, it’s an honor. And if you’re so self-centered and ungracious as to reject my offering, then that’s your failing.
Shame on you.
But hey! — Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and we really all need to be nice to one another. Especially in today’s multi-cultural society.
If you want to wish me a happy — you call it…
…or whatever happens to fall nearest to Christmas on your own cultural/religious calendar — for that matter, if you even just choose to say “Happy Holidays!” — I’ll accept your wish gratefully. As long as it’s given in good will.
Do me the courtesy of accepting mine.
People who delight in trying to discredit religion often cite the pagan roots of many Christmas elements, none the least its scheduling on December 25. In doing so, they miss the point that Christmas demonstrates the genius and adaptability of the Church. Back in 2007, essayist Lee Harris surveyed the history of Christmas, observing that…
“One can only admire the humanity and wisdom of those Christians … who chose to Christianize [pagan festivals], instead of outlawing [them], just as one can only deplore the fanaticism of those, like the Puritans, who refused to celebrate Christmas simply because it was once honored as the re-birthday of the Sun God. But what can be said about those fanatics who today wish to apologize and minimize Christmas out of a misplaced sense of multicultural sensitivity, considering that Christmas is itself a great multicultural festival, weaving together what is most precious and valuable from a host of different traditions — Hebrew, Greek, Persian, Roman, Celtic, Germanic?”
Some folks in Redmond, Washington, have made a preemptive strike in the yearly Christmas war, posting signs that read, “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas.” While this is a noble effort, it will probably turn out to be as off-putting to non-celebrators as the old “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaigns. At last report, the sign posters were unknown…
“Boys and girls who attend the Nichols Elementary School ‘Winter Party’ will not be able to make any reference to Christmas or any other religious holiday. Christmas trees are also banned —– along with the colors red and green.”
The policy is being promulgated by the Frisco, Texas school in defiance of a state statute enacted last June — known as the “Merry Christmas Law” — that assures the right to use traditional Christmas-related terms, greetings and expressions.
There might be some local politics involved, or maybe somebody’s setting up a test case. Nichols Elementary is located within the district of state Rep. Pat Fallon, the bill’s author…
This post has been picked up by the conservative website, American Thinker (with a different headline). Check it out at…