….and Happy Hanukkah too!
It intrigues me, this whole ‘political correctness’ about the Christian holiday–albeit with some pagan roots–celebrating the birth of a baby, just over 2000 years ago. A baby who would grow up to offend religiosity, love sinners, challenge hypocrisy, and eventually die the death of a criminal… all so that we would have cause to celebrate this day, which we have chosen as the one on which to acknowledge his birth.
Some atheists are offended by it, others don’t care one way or another, and even wish others a Merry Christmas. In the secular world, all around, the hype about whether you should say ‘Merry Christmas’ or Happy Holidays’, or simply disregard it entirely, seems to have died down. Or at least faded into background noise, unlike a few years ago.
But it isn’t only the secular world that has strong feelings about the holiday, and how we celebrate it. Some Christians, too, have decided that it is offensive to give much focus to the holiday. The feelings and opinions vary dramatically from one opinionated Believer to another.
The most intriguing one for me is the stoic Christian who grimaces when I say, “Merry Christmas”. Clearly I have struck a tender chord, offending him or her ever so slightly–or terribly in a rare case–by using the word ‘Merry’, indicating a ‘party’ spirit. More often than not, I am greeted in return with a strained, “You have a blessed Christmas too”.
I can see it takes effort for them, but with this religious duty accomplished, there is a look of personal satisfaction… almost a ‘victorious’ look, as though Satan has been weakened, just a little. I smile, and graciously accept the blessing. Only a fool wouldn’t. But I know a little secret…. We have just said the same thing in different words, and the devil isn’t happy with either of us. We have both acknowledged the joy of the Christ of Christmas.
Many years ago, in the Mennonite church, I learned that the word ‘blessed’, as used in the Bible, most often actually means, “happy, joyful, blissful…’ The word ‘merry’ also means, ‘cheerful, joyful, happy…’
I can talk about this… could even poke a bit of fun at it, if I was so inclined, because I was one such Christian some years back. I felt only ‘Blessed Christmas’ was religious enough to appropriately separate me from secular society, and give me the nod of approval from God.
Looking back, now, I see that my motivation, however ‘religious’ in intent, was more about me, than actually honouring God. If God really cared about stuff like that, He would have said so. Somewhere. Anywhere. He would have slipped it in. Maybe one of those awkward ‘stand alone’ verses, sandwiched between something about heathen rituals and abstaining from immorality, or something like that. You know, one of those verses that makes you stop and go, “Huh? … where did that come from? …is this guy ADHD, or what?” (Which, by the way, makes me feel better, since I am ADHD myself.) They’re often awesome verses, but have little or no connection with what comes before or after. That’s how God would probably have addressed it. “And abstain from using popular lingo… be ye separate in language.”
But He doesn’t. It’s not there. Just google ‘everyone… against the wall’, and see what King James verses pop up. And if the key to making language acceptable is adding ‘eth’ at the end… well, then almost anything would go. And then there’s the Apostle Paul who says, “I count all things as ‘dung’ for the sake of Christ…”
God uses every day language, to speak to every day people, and build relationships. He came to the earth so that we would know we are understood. So that we could grasp that He broke down the wall between us and God. He came into the ordinary, dwelt among us as ‘everyday people’, not as an arrogant, religious, ‘holier than thou’, and distant God. He became one of us.
So, while our intent may be ever so holy and righteous, I fear that all it accomplishes is to create an unnecessary distance between us and ‘them’. Maybe, if we humbly did as Jesus did 2000 years ago, and placed ourselves in the ‘stable’–the most ordinary place in the world–and then created less unnecessary distance, maybe we, like Him, would have a greater impact on society, rather than living a life of self preservation and religious maintenance.
Let’s get over ourselves already, and stop with making everything revolve around us, and our particular beliefs and interpretations, and put the focus back on the One whom we celebrate. It is He, not our ‘righteousness’, that makes us acceptable before God, and holy in His eyes.
If you hang out with me, odds are you will catch me slipping up, here and there… You may find that my language isn’t perfect…. that something I’ve heard too often in my ‘day to day’, makes it’s way into my vocabulary…. even something worse than ‘Merry Christmas’… not because I want to dishonour God, but because I am human….
But if you hang out with me, you will also discover that I love Jesus more than life itself. I love God, my Heavenly ‘Papa’, who came 2000 years ago to restore my relationship with Him.
Today I celebrate Jesus. I celebrate His birth. His love. His sacrifice for my sin, so that I would not need to attain, by my good works, my own salvation. I know myself well… I’d fall short, without Him. And I celebrate Him with great joy, a blissful sort of happy feeling of merriment that makes my heart dance with delight.
A very Merry, Blessed, Happy Christmas Holiday Season to you and yours!
© Trudy Metzger
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