Merry Christmas – or Happy Holidays?

I’m sorry. That’s all I can say to those who feel the joy has been sucked from their Christmas because they’ve encountered less-than-charitable Christians who stridently insist everyone use the phrase “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.” What disturbs me most about that is that from what I’ve observed, the attitude of some of us who claim to follow Jesus (Christian means Christ’s one) is so very…well, un-Christlike.

Embracing Jesus Christ means embracing his command to love one’s enemies, to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who hate them. (Those things are far easier to quote than do—which is what makes me a “practicing Christian” not a perfect one.) Jesus told his followers to expect opposition, and that when it comes, to be glad, because the same thing happened to him. Ouch.

“Nana, what’s your favourite holiday?” one of the grandchildren asked me the other day. “Cause mine’s sure not Christmas anymore.” An explanation followed. Too much frantic preparation, not enough genuine celebration, no real centre…and for what? I love it that my grandchildren are growing into thinking people—it distresses me to realize they’re picking up on the inconsistencies of the faith of their fathers and mothers.

The child is right. We Christians (including me) are prone to place far too much emphasis on the gifts, glam and glitter of this season, with a little Jesus on the side. Manger scenes in our homes, Santa and his excesses in our hearts.

In actions, and not only words, what I’d love to pass on to my grandchildren, and to those who observe how Christians practice their faith at this time of year, is this: The only true celebration of God’s incredible Heaven-sent gift to the world – (a redeemer who, for love alone, paid on the cross the legal penalty for the sins of all who embrace him) is a peaceful and joyful life that reflects Jesus to those around us, even those who think and believe differently than we do.

In that conversation with my grandchild I shared a quote I found, one that inspires and convicts me: “Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry. Comfort the afflicted. Love the outcast. Forgive the wrongdoer. Inspire the hopeless.”

No. We Christ-followers don’t (and ought not) worship the name of the holiday, but the person of Jesus Christ himself, whose entire salvation mission to the world was wrapped in God’s love—love that acts out in real practices of charity. Love that includes even those who don’t celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

That doesn’t mean agreement on all points; it does mean not getting our knickers in a knot when someone can’t or won’t give lip service to a custom they don’t wholeheartedly embrace. A few fellow Christians may disagree with my opinion on that. To them, I say, “happy holidays!”

We sit in the middle of the second week of Advent. This week, we focus on faith. Would Jesus approve how we are practicing ours?