If I were a stranger and came across you on your birthday and just smiled and said “Have a great day”, chances are it wouldn’t upset you that I said “day” instead of “birthday”. You’d accept the sentiment and the heart of the one who offered it. You may say “I will….it’s my birthday” to which the person would probably say “Well, happy birthday!” (I recommend this, by the way. I think we enjoy celebrating birthdays of friends and strangers and why not include others into your celebration?….especially if you’re celebrating life that day spectacularly as you should.)
I kinda feel the same thing about Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays debate going on. I know you’ve heard it….people are offended because someone says one or the other. People are offended because if you don’t say “Merry Christmas” to them, you’re “taking the Christ out of Christmas.” Others are offended that people are insensitive to those of other faiths or ideologies who may not celebrate Christmas and not going with “Happy Holidays.”
I don’t get all the energy people put behind this. Should you say “Merry Christmas” to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas? If someone doesn’t know you and your Christian status and says “Happy Holidays”, should you get offended? Does it really matter? What does this argument say about us as a people?
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. It’s not mandatory. Not even for Christians. Not once in scripture did God say that December 25th, or the birth of Jesus, is a holiday that we all must honor and respect. God knows all and knew all. If that kind of celebration was that important, wouldn’t he have mentioned it?
But he does tell the story. The story of a baby born to a virgin who is born to save the world. A baby born in a stable…not in the plushest accommodations. Who lived his 33 years on earth both humbly and audaciously. He didn’t demand that all worship him (though he strongly encouraged it and persuasively caused people to drop their whole lives and follow him), but still he respected their free choice. He was the one who walked the earth and showed us how to love people. Who fed them, and healed them, and dried their tears and loved them. Who met them where they were. Who said things like “Come unto me, you who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Who said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Who said “When someone hits you on the cheek, offer the other as well. When someone takes your coat, let them have your shirt, too.” The one who had the right to say “Bow down to me and show me some respect”, but didn’t choose to do it that way. In fact, when the persecution to him was the worse he said “Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”
Seems to me that if you’re a Christ follower, you’ve given up your right to self indignation. You have become more servant than king or queen. If you’re modeling Jesus, you’re not demanding that all go through the motions of your faith. You want to see genuine faith being developed. You should be pleading to God on the behalf of those around you. Privately. Most of all, you should be looking in the mirror and see whose spirit you are reflecting.
So Christians, let’s give up that soap box and try something new. (Those of other faiths or lacking faith are welcome to join in.)
I propose the Happy Holidays Drinking Game. You can change the title to the Merry Christmas Drinking Game, or whatever greeting (or lack of greeting) annoys you most. I’m all about flexibility. In fact, I particularly recommend using every greeting, or lack of greeting you’ll encounter.
It goes like this…every time you hear the “magic words” (or notice someone fails to say the “magic words”), you need to plant fruit. The fruit of the spirit. You remember… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
So…in other words, suppose you hate to hear the phrase “Happy Holidays”. Every time you do, and cringe, you need to pick a fruit of the spirit and perform an act that demonstrates it to either an individual or the world at large. These can be public acts, but try for some to be completed in complete secret….something between you and God, with you getting no personal recognition or fanfare (it’s probably not your birthday). It can even be as simple as a smile and a “Happy Holidays” back to them. (For some of you that would be the ultimate act of self control.) It can be buying a gift for a low income senior, sending a gift card anonymously to a parent who you suspect may be struggling to provide Christmas for their family, smiling at the parent of the child screaming in Walmart and saying “I know this is hard” or sharing a gentle word with the child themself. It may be encouraging someone who is down on themselves, or listening to that person at work who drones on and on and never ceases to get on your nerves. It may be taking a bag of groceries to the local food pantry, or hugging everyone you see that day that looks like they need a hug. (Ask for permission here, so you don’t appear creepy.)
The story of Christmas is that a Savior was born because YOU are a sinner. Those of you who know Christ have a responsibility to show Christ to our world. How effective at showing Christ to the world is standing on that Merry Christmas soap box? In my mind it’s the adult equivalent of the person from junior high (youngsters, that’s what we used to call middle school), who volunteered to take names and gleefully reported any possible infraction to the teacher when they returned. (FYI…if this was you, most of us couldn’t stand you.) Is that the way to a sinner’s heart? Does God want you reporting to him the list of sins committed by a non-Christian, an immature Christian, or anyone besides yourself? If you’re going to get on your high horse, shouldn’t it be by doing something that seems to matter to God?
So let’s do it….let’s plant fruit. You can even carry a baggie around with fruits of the spirit written on little slips of paper and draw them at random. You can grab whichever fruit floats through your mind at the moment, you can write them on your fingertips or wrist and look down, or work on one in particular that you struggle with. I suspect whichever fruit you choose will be good for your spiritual health.
Oh the drinking part of the game? Yes, I knew certain of my friends would be looking for this part….having been such experts of drinking games at large. At the end of the day, raise your glass (beverage optional) toward heaven and say “Here’s to you, my Lord! Thanks for giving me fruit to plant. Grow it in whatever way you want. It’s a gift to you, with no strings. And I’d like more to plant tomorrow, please.”
Consider a phrase like “Happy Holidays” God’s way of saying “Kim (actually insert your name here)…it’s time to get planting. Pick a fruit!”
Sometimes I say “Merry Christmas”, sometimes I say “Happy Holidays.” It depends on the person and the situation, though admittedly sometimes these are words spoken with absolutely no thought about who I am speaking to at all. Often the words carelessly pop out of my my mouth by rote. Sort of like when you say “Have a nice day” at a funeral. (Oh, you know you’ve done it too!) Or on your birthday and someone says “Happy Birthday” and you say “Happy Birthday to you, too!” It happens.
So….if you’re hanging with me this Christmas and listening to what I say, know you’ll have opportunities for a whole harvest of fruit. While I probably won’t offer to hold your hand if you need help getting up onto that Merry Christmas soapbox, if you need help planting fruit? I can probably join you in that!