Every Christmas season we endure the "holiday wars." Should sales clerks say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?" Should Christmas trees on public property be called "holiday trees?" Should schools have Christmas break or winter break? I could give more examples, but you know where I am going here.
Each year both sides in this "war" get all bent out of shape in attempting to control the language of the season, because in any argument terminology does make all the difference. Frankly, I think both sides are a little silly. Those who want to change the language of the holiday forget the elephant that is in the room. They can call it a holiday tree if they want, but the only reason that it is standing in the rotunda of the capitol is because it is Christmas. A sales clerk can wish me a happy holiday, but the only reason I am standing in line having purchased things for people they really do not need is because it is Christmas. The public schools can refer to it as winter break all they want, but no one is off school because it is cold and snowy outside.
Those on the other side of this debate have no trouble showing their Grinch side just as much as their opponents. Who really cares whether someone says, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? Why do they respond in anger over the renaming of the tree on public square as a holiday tree? Why not shake one's head and chuckle instead? Why have an emotional meltdown over school children being let out of school supposedly for winter break. Who goes around wishing other people a happy winter anyway? Why are there Christians so worried about who says what to whom about this season? Is their celebration of Christmas dependent upon the type of celebration, or the lack thereof, of the holiday season?
Perhaps Christians should ask a deeper question in the midst of the "holiday wars." How have we celebrated Christmas over these many, many years that our society even debates what to call it and how to refer to it? Some say, it is because we live in a diverse society and not everybody embraces Christianity. This may indeed be part of it, but frankly I believe it plays a small part. Rather, I think the problem is that our celebration of Christmas often does not look very Christian, which is proven beyond all reasonable doubt when there are people who truly believe that Santa Claus is a Christian symbol.
We celebrate the self-giving of God in Jesus Christ with Black Friday deals where people push and shove and use saving money as an excuse to enshrine greed into the celebration. That is not a Christian argument; it is turning the celebration of Christmas itself into just one more commodity to be exploited. Indeed, the commodification of Christmas has made it not only possible, but easy for anyone to participate in the celebration of the season. No thought is necessary as to what it means to worship God in the knowledge that the Creator of all that is has come into our existence in the frailty of human flesh in order to save humanity. And while there are vestiges of this truth all around on display during the Christmas season, they frankly take a back seat to what Christmas is truly about in our culture-- a time of greed and financial over-extension, of gluttony and an excuse to drink too much.
The truth of the matter is that any old atheist can celebrate Christmas. Why then are we surprised when those who have no vested interest in the Christian faith, but who do have a stake in the celebration of Christmas, want to change all the traditional vocabulary of the season? We Christians have created the issue that angers so many Christians.
I am not a Grinch when it comes to the celebration of Christmas. I enjoy the season as much as everyone else; neither do I care if those who are not particularly religious celebrate as well. Why not? The more the merrier, as they say. But I have no stake in remaking the language of the season because I find those who want to do so to be silly. I can call my car a horse if the word car offends me. That doesn't change the reality of what it is.
By the same token I have no interest in taking on the politically correct language police. Let them play their language games all they want. I find those who want to lead the offensive against those who have supposedly declared war on Christmas to be just as silly. I have better things to do with my time then insisting people describe gaudy, inflatable decorations on the town square with the word "Christmas."
I hope all who read this post have a happy holiday and... uh... a merry Christmas as well.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian