“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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“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”… Part One:Is It Time To Give This One Up?

For about 20 years or so now, my mom has owned a Hallmark store. I would work there when I was in high school and during college breaks. Obviously, I would work more at Christmas time. On several occasions there, I would have conversations with other employees about the appropriate phrase to say to customers after ringing them up. Some insisted on saying “Happy Holiday” (or something similar), and claimed that saying “Merry Christmas” would be offensive. I, being the proud (and stubborn) Christian that I am insisted on saying “Merry Christmas,” and a few others did with me. People did notice, and some even commented. Interestingly, I never once heard someone say they were offended. Instead, I kept hearing people (Christians, or at least nominally) tell me how much they appreciated that, and they couldn’t stand hearning “Happy Holidays.”

Christians seem to think that they’re losing something in a culture that says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” To give another example, just check out this new song by the Christian Singing Group “Go Fish” called “Christmas With a Capital C.”

The more I think about this, the more I wonder if it’s just time for Christians to give this fight up. Maybe it would be better for the sake of our witness simply to recognize that American culture, broadly speaking, does not celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a holiday marked by worshiping God for sending his Son, Jesus Christ into the world. Our culture celebrates “The Holiday Season,” a holiday that’s not Christmas, but happens to be celebrated at the same time of the year. Maybe instead of insisting that our neighbors and local businesses acknowledge our celebration of Christmas, it’s time for us to acknowledge that our culture is no longer interested in celebrating Christmas per se. Then we can respond missiologically rather than by fighting a culture war and longing for a return to Christendom and the cultural privileges that came with it.

For the half dozen or so of you who read this, I”m curious to know your thoughts. Has the American “Holiday Season” become something entirely different from Christmas? Should Christians acknowledge this? If so, is it ok for Christians to celebrate both Christmas and Holiday Season, or should Christians reject the alternative?

And since WordPress now lets you create polls: