Holiday (Christmas) Greetings

Happy Advent! This period of time before Christmas is a good time to decorate, bake, and shop, and it is a good time for prayer and spiritual reflection. Unfortunately, it also seems to be turning into a time for Christians to complain and argue. Perhaps you have seen some of the news coverage of conservative Christians who are mad that retailers use “holiday†messages rather than specific Christmas references in their advertising. It is actually leading to some calls for boycotts.

I will admit that I agree Christmas should be mentioned when referring to the December holidays, but only under one circumstance. If a store, or school, or some other institution is listing all the holidays, then Christmas should be part of the list. To wish the public a happy Hanukah, and Kwanzaa and the generic holidays is missing the point. You either mention everyone, or no one.

The nature of one’s greetings has more to do with manners, than cultural sensitivity or religious conviction. When talking with someone whom I don’t know well I always wish him or her “happy holidays.†I don’t do this become I am a wishy-washy sort of a Christian, nor because I am excessively politically correct. I do it because it is good manners. My form of a holiday wish has more to do with the recipient of the sentiment than it does with me. (Remember the first rule of manners—it is not about me.) If I am unsure of the religion of the person with whom I am talking, then I will use the generic phrase so as to not risk offending them.

If I know the religious affiliation of an acquaintance I will leave them with good wishes for their holiday of choice. Thus it is “Happy Hanukah†for a Jewish friend, and “Merry Christmas†for a fellow churchgoer.

Given this rule of manners if retailers absolutely must have some seasonal excuse to encourage shopping, then it is appropriate to call it holiday sales, rather a Christmas sales. The merchants can’t know the religious affiliation of all of their shoppers, so it is better to use the generic term. As a Christian I take this to mean Christmas to me, and I will assume that practitioners of other winter holidays will claim it for their own, if they so wish.

Some argue that since the majority of Americans are Christian the use of Holidays is a thinly disguised attempt to water down our Christian faith. Some go so far to claim discrimination in the name of Christ. I would suggest that because Christians are in the majority, it is incumbent on us, in the name of good manners, to be particularly careful of our emphasis of Christmas. As Jesus said about prayer, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.†It is a sign of good faith to keep your expressions of faith between you and God. Certainly the public display of faith is best limited to the good works that we do. Personally, I would be happy to find no mention of Christmas in any advertising.

If I’m going to be upset by anything this time of year I would spend my energies on the overly materialistic expressions of any and all holidays. Advent and Christmas are times to reassert the values that matter to us the most. Love for family and friends, respect for strangers, and serving the needy are enough to fill my days and concerns.

For a boost in the true Advent spirit be sure to attend the Chancel Choir and Bell Choir concert on Sunday at 4:00 in our sanctuary. It will be a marvelous addition to any holiday. A reception will follow in the fellowship hall.

See you in church,

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