Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fighting over Christmas and missing its meaning

I originally posted this to the now-defunct Examiner.com seven years ago today. The supposed "War on Christmas" debate continues to this day. Donald Trump declared recently that we are going to hear "Merry Christmas" in stores again. My thoughts on the subject are pretty much the same today as they were in 2009. Why are so many obsessed with political power instead of spreading goodwill?  

Blessed are the Peacemakers Wikimedia
You find it in Examiner.com articles, message boards, e-mails, and all over the blogosphere: “Don’t say ‘Happy Holidays,’ say 'Merry Christmas.’" We are being told that there is a “War on Christmas,” and it is implied that people are trying to undermine Christmas by using the generic phrase.

But using the phrase "Happy Holidays" does not necessarily mean the well-wisher is consciously avoiding the term "Christmas." The generic greeting is, first and foremost, shorthand for "Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." And when we talk about the "Holiday Season" in today's culture we are usually including Thanksgiving as well.

Not everyone who says "Happy Holidays" or "Holiday Season" has insidious motives, as some might have us to believe! This time of year good cashiers used to mix up their closing remarks to avoid sounding stilted: "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or even "Have a great evening." But with the attitude of some today, retail workers are afraid to say "Happy Holidays" lest someone thinks they are heathen!

On the other hand, some of the nonsense from the other side of the issue is just ridiculous. Calling a Christmas tree a "Holiday tree" is just silly. One ad even went so far as to say that their item would cause joy when it was unwrapped on "Holiday morning." Come on. Have we really come that far in this culture that we are afraid to call things what they are lest we offend anyone?

In the 1960's and 70's the big deal was X-mas. Don't put X-mas on your store signs--that's blasphemy! That's X-ing Christ out of Christmas. Well, not exactly. Christians have been using "X" for Christ since the first century. The letter X looks exactly like the Greek letter Chi (pronounced khee), which is the first letter in Christos--Christ.

A ladies singing trio from the late 50's and early 60's, The White Sisters, sang a song titled "Keep Christ in Christmas." Whether the whole X-mas controversy "inspired" the song or not is unclear. Part of the song speaks about letting "Christ have first place" at this time of year. But it does not seem that Christ is having "first place" in most of the complaining about and campaigning against "Happy Holidays." When Conservative groups send out e-mail newsletters saying "Send us money because we’re getting Christmas back into the stores," is Christ getting first place? When the average person sees "Christmas Tree" instead of "Holiday Tree" is he more likely to think of the "true meaning of Christmas"? These questions should give the Christian pause.

Christmas is about giving, not winning. Christ himself was the first Christmas gift. If Christians spent their time giving themselves to feed the poor, visit the sick and generally spread goodwill among men, instead of organizing boycotts and sending threatening e-mails, wouldn't that better reflect what Christmas is all about?

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