“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”… part two: the issue isn’t persecution. it’s effective witness.

Last week, I began reflecting on the “battle” fought every December over whether the greeting “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is more important in public discourse. I questioned whether Christians ought just to give up the battle and begin seeing the “Holiday Season” as a holiday completely different from Christmas. You can read it in its entirety, along with the comments, here. The post generated more comments than anything else I’ve ever written on here (granted, soliciting comments through my facebook status probably helped that). Based on people’s comments, and on my own further reflection, here are some conclusions I’m coming to:

It’s simply erroneous to imply that stores instructing their employees to say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas” is anything resembling persecution for customers who happen to be Christian. Not to mention, doing so would also be insulting to those saints from previous ages and currently in other parts of the workd who have faced actual persecution and even martyrdom. That being said, if a store clerk wanted to say “Merry Christmas” and faced negative consequences from his employer for doing so, that would raise some free speech issues and be closer (but still probably not equivolent) to persecution.

The fact that this battle is happening, though, does raise contextual issues for Christians seeking to give faithful witness. Christmas has been commercialized. So much so , I would argue as I began to do in the last post, that the result is a completely different holiday bearing little-to-no resemblance to its original significance. The problem is that most Christians have responded one of two ways. Either they’ve completely given in to the whims of the culture and no longer celebrate Christmas as a Holy Day, or they just complain a lot and expect the culture to change back to the way things were. Actually, most Christians, paradoxically do both.

Christians need to find a new way to respond. For the church to simply go along with this cultural change is to give up on giving faithful witness to Christ. For the church to try to change things by flexing the flabby remnants of its influential cultural muscle is simply delusional, and borderline unethical. Christians need to respond in a way that is subversively counter-cultural, not for the sake of winning back Christmas, but for the sake of showing the world the value of following Jesus.

So, what does that look like? I have a few ideas, but I”m more curious to hear what you all think? How do Christians faithfully celebrate Christmas and subvert our culture’s commercialized “Holiday Season”?

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3 thoughts on ““Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”… part two: the issue isn’t persecution. it’s effective witness.

  1. quite a quagmire and opening of a can of worms here (kind of like eschatology). anyway I’ve finally decided to chime in so to speak according to the wisdom given me.

    when it comes to cards for this time of year. it gets difficult to stay true to Christ when so many of the cards have all types of greetings and few have a blessing or a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Problems occur when you force the issue with friends who do not yet know Jesus as Lord and Savior or you’ve got friends of other faiths. A card may not be the best approach to witnessing to Jesus. Actions speak louder than words on a card. Actions and their motives raise curiousity and opportunities to testify to the hope we have in Christ as Christians. But we must also remember that the Spirit is the one who converts.

    I would like to hear and be more informed about the pagan celebrations going on at this time (referring to a comment made on part one). So greater clarity can be gained as to how these practices have been assimilated into today’s understanding of Christmas. in which case separating grain from the weeds. perhaps this is part of the problem as to why this is an issue and why American Christians have a very limited lens by which we define persecution in any form or why we have very little awareness of how we buy into secular culture in an attempt not to endure persecution.

    Then there’s St Nick aka Santa Claus. Yes Virginia there was a St. Nicholas. but we have kind of formed an idol of him and have given all the wonder of Christ’s birth over to the idealized version of Santa and give Santa all the glory due to Jesus. St. Nicholas, the real one, lived in service to God and because his faith in Christ he gave gifts out of charity to others. I don’t think we can completely disreguard Santa all together. Just shift our focus to someone greater than Santa. We need to continue to affirm this chairty and affirm gift giving and affirm God has given the greatest gift, Jesus. A gift we may not necessarily want but one He knows we need.

    yes it is a battle that continues but may we as Christians not give up fighting it. Let us look to the Spirit to provide us with instruction on how we the church can not get sucked into the black hole of commericalization of Christmas. And may we be pruned of the branches that bear no fruit because they have assimilated this commericalism into the body and now must be lost so that Christ is found once more as the reason for the season. Let us look to Christmas and what follows in the life of Jesus and all that he does as sacred again.

  2. Grace and peace to you, Michael – lovely to see you at the concert!

    The holiday season is still a wonderful time to share the REAL ‘reason for the season’ with people – in every way at any time possible. Even if the secular holiday trappings completely obscure the original meaning of celebrating the Incarnation, we can always begin with a mini-history lesson. We live in a mission field ripe for harvest in the USA. All we need is bold workers!

    Blessed Advent to you!!
    In Christ,
    Linda Sue

  3. Mike,

    Great follow up to your post. I appreciate the emphasis on effective witness. here’s one thought. World Vision always puts out a “gift catalogue” every year where you can give clothes, food, medicine, etc. to someone around the world through WV and designate the gift in honor or memory of someone. An alternative gift idea.

    Blessings,
    Derek

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