Why I Say “Merry Christmas”

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve suffered through one holiday season after another watching the Christmas I grew up with gradually melt away. I endured the ever-so-subtle dilution as the word “Christmas” became offensive and our media stepped on board the “inclusive” bandwagon. From there it was only a matter of time until we reached the point today where Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings is on the majority of Christmas cards and it takes a real search to find Christian themes.

After years of gradually being beaten into submission, then, it does seem that we Christians and our sympathizers have become genuinely bewildered as to what we should say: Happy Holidays? Happy Kwanzaa? Happy Hanukah? Harry Christnukwanzaadays?  Generally speaking, though, the issue seems to have settled into a sort of truce between Happy Holidays, Happy Whatever You Believe This Season Means To You, and Merry Christmas. Luckily, no one has felt “Happy” to be too divisive (“Well – you know, not everyone is happy, so saying this to some people might cause them to feel worse”).

Can we recap what we know about our country and its relationship to this holiday? The United States is a nation that was founded in large part by Christians – not Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Rastafarians. And since our forefathers landed here, we have remained a nation that had solidly Christian foundations. Granted, much has changed in the last 60 years – but that is dwarfed by the almost 500 years we’ve had as a people organized along Judeo-Christian lines. No other religion even comes close in its effect on America’s founding and evolution. And Christmas is very simply defined as a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ – not a pagan celebration or a seasonal mishmash of various religious ceremonies.

In all of this it bears remembering that most, if not all, other countries on earth – be they Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, or Animist – feel no such qualms about celebrating their religious holidays loudly and proudly; and woe betide the Christian who ventures to non-Christian countries expecting the same liberal attitude towards his belief that he is here scolded to afford everyone else. I’m still waiting for the staunchly liberal “protector of everyone’s rights” to go to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan, stand in the middle of Mecca or Medina and hold up a sign saying, “Ramadan Isn’t Just For Muslims!” or “Open The Hajj To Christians Now!” Let me know how that’s working.

What is missed by many in this liberalizing of Christian holidays is that a simple watering down of the holiday doesn’t even make sense. Either you celebrate the birth of Christ or you don’t. To try to make the Christmas season “inclusive of” everyone’s beliefs is to destroy it. Leaving aside the theory that this has been the idea of American liberals all along, the result is that the Christmas season in America today is a shopping holiday, a time of frenzied get-togethers (some not even welcome) and gift-buying – a sort of birthday bash on steroids.

And the dangers of this to Christians are multiple, and all-too-real. It’s shocking for me to hear most people nowadays greet with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas:” the media has done a superb job. It’s as if people are afraid that if they say “Merry Christmas,” they will be – the gods forbid! – identified as a Christian. There were no such qualms to hundreds of millions of Americans in times past.

But let me bring this home to Christians:  Today, do we go to church, sing carols, and put a nativity scene on our mantle, but suddenly get queasy when we have to buy cards for unbelievers – and so choose the innocuous Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings so as not to be “offensive”? Does “Merry Christmas” get stuck in our throats when we greet our non-Christian colleagues – and even moreso the more virulently anti-Christian they are?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I believe when we refuse to say “Merry Christmas” because we’re afraid of offending someone, we’ve stepped on that line between being genuinely loving and respectful to being ashamed of who we are.

Christ made some curious statements about faith (actually, He made curious statements about a lot of things). In Matthew 10:34-39, He said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

So much for Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men. What Jesus is saying here is that if we are ashamed or afraid of offending others with our belief in Christ, we can’t be believers. To put it in a seasonal context: if we are afraid of offending others by saying “Merry Christmas” – thereby identifying ourselves as ones who most likely celebrate Christ’s birth – then what are we? Closet Christians, like those in Saudi Arabia or North Korea? Christ makes it clear that, by not wanting to offend our family members, much less others, we have offended Him. And God makes clear throughout Scripture that He won’t take second place to anyone (see Deuteronomy 4:24; 2 Chronicles 15:15; Luke 4:8).

It seems like a small thing, but if we’re afraid of identifying ourselves in post-modern America simply as Christmas celebrators, where does it end? Like an infection that starts with a small nick in the skin and ends up engulfing our bodies, will the fear that we’ll be “found out” or will “offend” spread to our overall witness to where we’re afraid to even say we’re Christians? Let’s pray not.  Please, Christians…Let’s keep Christ at the center of the season. Merry Christmas!


Categories: Living Christianically

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