I love Christmas. I love the holiday traditions we pass down from generation to generation. I love the decorations, the parades, and the anticipation of the season. I love the food. I don’t love endless Christmas music starting in October. I don’t love seeing Christmas trees before Thanksgiving and I don’t love the endless commentary about taking Christ out of Christmas.
As Christians, we are known by our fruits. So, why should examples of our faith be different at Christmas than in April, June, or any given day of the year? Do we really honor Christ with our Christmas behavior toward others? The central message of Jesus did not involve trampling anyone to get 20% off some doodad at the mall on Black Friday.
The opportunity to be Christ-like is always present—even when the desire isn’t.
There is an anti-Christian vibe going on in America, but it is hypocritical of us to focus on Christmas with our indignation. You see, the person who sends you a greeting card that says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is not robbing you of your Jesusness. The only person capable of doing that is you.
Following Jesus is not a holiday thing we do on Christmas and Easter. Christianity is not the celebration of shopping discounts and days off work. It’s a way of life.
Not everyone is Christian. While we are always looking for an opportunity to share our faith, ripping into someone in the spirit of the season is not proper evangelism. Everyone needs a little grace.
If someone of another faith sends you a holiday greeting, they are not trying to convert you or insult you. In a time they consider Holy—holiday means “Holy Day” after all—they have counted you among the blessings in their life. Rejoice in that. Chances are, you have produced good fruit along the way. Try not to ruin it.
Here’s a list of possible greetings and the appropriate response to each:
- Happy Hanukkah – Thank you.
- Happy Holidays – Thank you.
- Season’s Greetings – Thank you.
- Glad Tidings – Thank you.
- Happy New Year – Thank you.
Get the point? A greeting is not an open invitation for a pious lecture. Just say “thank you.”
We live in a society that goes out of its way to be offended. Feel free to say “Merry Christmas” to anyone you meet. There’s no rule against it.
We tend to create a lot of straw men to assign blame for our faults. In scripture, James tells us that God does not cause temptation and neither does the other guy. The things that cause us to sin come from our own hearts. It’s the same with taking Christ out of Christmas. Where it might be easy to say “they” are taking Christ out of Christmas, it might be good to ask who is this mysterious “they” you blame? “They” might also be in your mirror if you want to stop playing victim for a bit.
Jesus is still in Christmas as much as he ever was. If, by Christmas, you mean the annual shopping celebration of Jesus Claus where we spend our butts off to give each other (and ourselves, to be honest) a bunch of presents, then you may be right. Jesus is not in that. He took himself out of that madness long before the mall started blaring Barry Manilow’s Christmas Greatest Hits through the speaker system. If your idea of Christmas, instead, involves the celebration of the Christ message, Jesus is right there—like every other day of the year.
If you want to keep Jesus in Christmas
- feed the poor
- bear good fruit
- be kind to strangers
- love your neighbor
- bring joy into someone’s life
- forgive those who have hurt you
- avoid gossip
- love your family
- make candy and red velvet cake* *OK, I made that last point up, but Christmas is all about bringing joy.
Christmas is not the time of year to get symbolically indignant. It’s a yearly reminder of the commitment you made in accepting the gift of salvation and it is a good time to reflect on your deeds for the year. Jesus will be right in the middle of your Christmas if you keep him there in your heart. You are the only one who can ever take him out.
Happy Holy Day!
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