Do not let the title mislead you. I am a BIG fan of this time of year. I love the festivities. I love the family gatherings, the gathering of friends, exchanging gifts, decorating the house, and singing “fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.” Yet, I must admit that I get discouraged. The holiday season that spans from late November on into January gets to me. Not really the season as much as all the brouhaha that goes with it, especially in recent years. In the past few years, different groups have stepped up their efforts to claim their rights concerning this season.
Over the past few years many suggest that we must decide if we say, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” This places me in an internal tension. Personally, I see the entire five weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years as the Holiday Season, so I am content to say “Happy Holidays.” But now, if I choose those words, I am thought to be opposed to Christ. I am NOT opposed to Christ; I am a follower, a disciple, a Christian first and foremost, so I say “Merry Christmas.” But, now that statement communicates my acceptance that December 25 is the day of Christ birth and that I celebrate it as such. If I say “Merry Christmas” do I need to put up sign’s in my yard that say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” or “Don’t X Christ out of Christmas?” I have issues with each of those statements: 1) December 25 is most likely not the date of Christ’s birth. Most Biblical and extra-biblical evidence supports a late spring or summer birth. 2) Jesus is the reason for all of life, everyday, and not just one particular month. Truth be told, Paul warns against observing holy days (holidays) in Gal 4:10-11, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” 3) X-mas does not X out Christ. “X” is the first letter (chi – ‘ki’) in the Greek word Xristos (Christos) or Christ. X-mas is shorthand for Christmas.
I return to my internal conflict, “What do I do?” There are at least four possible ways we as Christians can approach this season.
- Object to Christmas entirely. Do not give gifts, put up trees, sing seasonal songs, have gatherings of family or friends, and proclaim all that do are pagans.
- Celebrate Christmas as a Religious Holiday. Put up a tree, sing carols, put out a “nativity scene,” have special programs at ‘church,’ and keep “Christ in Christmas.”
- Celebrate Christmas as a Family Holiday. Get together with friends and family and enjoy each other’s company. Enjoy giving gifts and singing seasonal songs about reindeer and jolly ol’ elves.
- Celebrate as Family and use the Opportunity of the Season to Teach the Truth about Jesus and Salvation. Many people during this time of year think more about God than any other five week period, so redeem the time.
Which approach is the right one?
The first is just too negative. Such an anti-social mentality cannot have a positive influence on the world. Such an attitude creates too much distance and disdain. I cannot in clear conscience recommend the first.
The second is a sell-out. To go all the way to accepting this season as a celebration of Christ’s birth and promoting it as such is selling a lie. Such undermines the integrity of true faith. I cannot in clear conscience recommend the second.
The third is much better. I can recommend celebrating with family and friends. Using the opportunity our nation and world provides to spend time with those that are important to us and to demonstrate our love for them. Yet is does this option go far enough?
The fourth is best. The fourth has all the good attributes of the third and adds to them a reminder that we (as followers of Christ) have the responsibility to spread the gospel in season and out of season. We talk a lot about speaking out of season, lets not forget to speak in season (and with seasoning – cf. Col 4:6) as well.
Hap-Mer-py-ry Holi-Christ-days-mas! And a Happy New Year to boot!