It’s that time of year. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is revving up. My beloved Appalachian mountains have reached the pinnacle of color and are on the downward swing to brown, dry leaves and barren trees. It seems like the Christmas decorations have already been out for weeks.
So, this is the time of year when the “war on Christmas” reignites. Inevitably, my Facebook feed will be filled with images begging for likes, proclaiming “share if you want to keep Christ in Christmas.”
I will ignore them. Not because I don’t want to keep Christ in Christmas… but just because I don’t think a thumbs-up on Facebook is an acceptable substitute for sharing the Good News of a Savior coming into our world.
Because I am a minister, I will hear countless stories from concerned citizens about their holiday shopping trip to the local Wal-Mart and how the cashier said “happy holidays” instead. I will listen to the concerns with compassion and understanding… but I won’t be concerned about it too much myself.
So–while the season is still early, allow me to go on record as saying I don’t want you to wish me a merry Christmas.
At least, not if you don’t really mean it.
If your boss tells you to say “Merry Christmas” to your customers to avoid scandal, I don’t want to hear it. If you are telling me “Merry Christmas” because you’ve been chewed out by one too many irate customers who took offense to your more vague “happy holidays” wish… well, I still don’t want to hear it.
Christmas, to me, is more than a time of commercial materialism. It is a holy, awesome, amazing time of anticipation and waiting and hope. Much of what I do in stores and businesses around town during this time of year is a distraction from what I feel Christmas is really about.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the celebrations that come with Christmas. I look forward to my family Christmas party, when my relatives will come from all around the state and converge on my parents’ house to enjoy each other. I enjoy Christmas dinner with my family. I enjoy watching my nieces and nephews tear into their packages.
But take those things away, and I will still be left with something amazing and inspiring to look forward to. The weeks of Advent build up to a world-changing climax that comes not with a bang, but with a whisper, as we light candles on Christmas Eve night and welcome hope and salvation into our world and into our lives in the most unexpected way: through the birth of a vulnerable baby.
There will be trumpets and shouts and adulation later… but it’s that worship service on Christmas eve that leaves me with bated breath, waiting for morning to break on a brand new day filled with new possibilities.
But in the weeks leading up to that, I am often frenzied, harried, and frustrated with crowds and long lines and the endless search for the perfect gift for the people I love.
Often, by the time that I get to the cashier, I am anything but a shining example of the sort of hope and excitement the Christmas season should create. Usually, I’m tired and overstimulated (that’s the introvert in me) and just want to pay and get the heck out of there.
And I know that the person ringing up my purchases is even more tired and more overstimulated because they work here in the madness and chaos. Chances are, due to my geographic location, the person checking me out at the register does identify as a Christian, if she s/he doesn’t actually practice it. But my experience has told me that the employee nor I am really in the Christmas spirit at that brief moment that our paths cross in a check-out lane.
And we certainly don’t have time to share anything more than the most basic niceties: How are you? Fine. Find everything. Yup. That’s (a total probably more than her check will be that week). Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.
Where was Christ in that?
Where is the hope of Advent? Where is the sense of the coming kingdom? Where is the excitement? Where is salvation and grace and redemption?
Christmas is about so much more than just knowing the right slogan to say. I don’t care if you tell me to have a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday… because in the end, it’s little more than a seasonal version of “have a nice day.”
The real war on Christmas isn’t resting in the employers who instruct their staff to say “happy holidays.” It’s resting in the people who honestly believe saying “Merry Christmas” is sufficient. Because it’s not. It never is.
So, don’t tell me to have a Merry Christmas if you don’t really intend to live it. And if you really mean it, then please, be the Merry Christmas.
I’d rather you spread the spirit of Christmas by letting the hope and salvation of Christ be written in everything you do this season. Let Christ shine through you. Be Christmas this year… don’t just say it.