It's that time of year again! The air is growing colder, the clothes are getting fuzzier, and the stores shelves are getting fuller. A brief walk through the local Wal Mart is all you need to get into the
holiday CHRISTmas spirit.
I really love this time of year. In part because I prefer winter clothes to summer clothes on pretty much anyone. Something about warm fuzzy boots and scarves always makes me happy. And I like the gifts, giving and receiving, it's just fun. But as Thanksgiving week came to a close and our bellies returned to their normal sizes, a sense of dread began to set in. What could I possibly be dreading during this, the most wonderful time of the year? Well...
I dread the "Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas" posts that are about to flood my Facebook newsfeed.
I dread the bumper stickers, cards, and buttons that will bark at me that "Jesus is the reason for the season".
I dread the war that Christians will wage against those who they perceive to be waging a war on Christmas.
Friends, Jesus is not a wimp. If you think he's sitting up in heaven with a tissue and a chocolate bar crying because more people are saying happy holidays than merry Christmas, then I'm not sure you've ever met the guy. He's not a middle aged woman watching a Lifetime movie, and the phrases we use to greet people during the month of December is not something that I see him being terribly concerned with. However, I would think it very concerning for him to see his name being tosses around so flippantly, and, truth be told, hatefully. The "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign is dangerous, in that it has a way of propping us up onto our pedestals where we can look down on the "Happy Holidays" sayers and label them anti-Jesus, while we are of course pro-Jesus which makes us winners and them losers. It is one more avenue that will lead us into the pursuit of Christianity, and we will completely miss Jesus.
Perhaps you didn't know this, but Christmas isn't the only holiday celebrated in December. There's also this little thing called Hanukkah and then there's Kwanzaa, and let's not forget Festivus. December is not just the Christmas season, it is a season of many different holidays, celebrated by many different people, in many different ways.
Jesus was not born on December 25th, y'know? And the origin of our Christmas holiday is (I'm sorry to say) not a very Christian one. The trees, the lights, the stockings, the whole kit and kaboodle, it all has very pagan beginnings. But somewhere along the way we took it and made it our own, designating December 25th as the day that we would recognize the birth of Jesus, and to do so we would spend lots of money on material things, gorge ourselves on popcorn and candy canes, and hang twinkly lights on our houses. Because, after all, Jesus is the reason for the season, and nothing says Jesus like a candy cane.
It all seems so silly. I don't love Jesus any more this month, or appreciate him any more, or want to share him with the world any more, so why would I treat this season like it's something sacred, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to reach the world? After all, is not Jesus the reason for ALL seasons?
As I've been pondering it over the last weeks I've come to the conclusion that not only is it okay for Christians to say "Happy Holidays", but truly it seems to be the most appropriate thing to say. Especially when we're speaking with people who we know are not Christians, what are we achieving by correcting them with a gruff, "Merry Christmas!!!!!"? What are we achieving when we open our coat so that they can see the button pinned to our shirt that says "Jesus is the reason for the season"? Who are we to say that people of a different faith (or of no faith at all) cannot take this holiday and make it their own, just as we took those ancient pagan traditions and made them our own? If we are going to get hostile at the thought of atheists celebrating our CHRISTmas, why are we so bitter when they take Christ out of Christmas and simply celebrate the holiday season?
Jesus doesn't care if you say "Happy Holidays", he cares about how you represent his name to this world. When the girl that rings you up at Target tells you happy holidays because that's what her employer requires, and you respond by hissing, "Jesus is the reason for the season", do you really think you have shared Jesus with her? You've told her this whole season, everything we're celebrating, it's all about Jesus, but what kind of Jesus are you showing her? Are you loving her? Are you reaching for her heart? Or are you just concerned with making a point?
I don't want to make a point, I want to reach hearts. I want to love people. I don't want to be the defender of Christmas, or Christianity, or candy canes, I want to be an ambassador for Christ. And so, this season, when I find myself more in love with Jesus and more in pursuit of him than ever before, I also feel less inclined than ever to be his bodyguard. Instead, I want to be his hands and feet, and I want to share his love. And so...