Anybody happy that the “happy holiday” season is over? If so, click “like” on my Facebook page.
Three groups of people are probably thankful.
Group number one are all the grumps who are unhappy that “happy holidays” has taken the place of “Merry Christmas” as the default greeting or farewell during December. You know, the sales clerk sighs as she hands you the receipt, and says, “Happy holidays,” in a voice that is anything but happy. Certain types of people take offense at this: some even scold the clerk for the generic phrasing, forgetting that it was probably upper management that dictated what the clerk can or cannot say as a holiday greeting. To that I say, just smile and say “Merry Christmas.” (And remember that “holiday” comes from the words “holy day,” so a tiny bit of spirituality sneaked into the secular. Double click “like”.)
Group number two are the people who would prefer Christmas to be erased from the calendar. The reasons range from seasonal sadness, apathy towards Christ’s birth, and disdain for the over-the-top spending and insanity that accompany the “peace on earth” season.
I read an interesting column in the local paper in the religion section on January 1. Local “faith leaders” take turns writing inspirational and/or instructional features. This week, Rev. Houston Hodges penned an article entitled “Let’s abolish Christmas but keep the peace.” Here’s the gist of his article:
Christmas has gotten out of hand: commercialized, exaggerated, no longer recognizable beside the original intent of the holiday. So let’s abolish “Christmas” as a holiday. You can still celebrate the birth of Jesus or “any significant person who brought revelation and inspiration to the earth.”
At the convenience of their own schedule, people can celebrate a “special day when God intervened in history,” and greet others with their own choice phrase, whether that be “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Extra-special Eid.”
Any day of the year could be that “special day,” so on any given day, you could give presents and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The basis for this idea is that “it would be better to greet people with sincerity and integrity than to shovel out meaningless repetitions of worn-out clichés.” Thus, we could save the spirit of Christmas even while we abolish it.
As much as I would love to unexpectedly receive gifts any day of the year, I think the idea is a bit much. He’s right that
- Our “merry Christmas’s” often sound clichéd (especially when we’re snappy and snarly when we say it).
- We need to be acting in the spirit of Christmas from January to December.
- Moreover, I think his heart is almost in the right place: we need to keep the spirit of “peace on earth, good will to men” rather than suffer incredible stress from all the obligatory Christmas gifts, parties, decorations and the like.
Still, the phrase “any significant person who brought revelation and inspiration to the earth” is too generic. It could mean anyone from Jesus to Santa to Mohammed to Moses to … where does it stop? There have been many significant people throughout history (some significant for the wrong reasons). Some have brought revelation to earth (or claimed to, at least). Some brought inspiration, too—but you can inspire people to do evil as well as good.
Christmas is about more than just “peace on earth and good will to men.” It’s about God entering our world as a baby. God setting aside glory and taking on flesh and bones and skin. God starting His earthly life that would lead to an agonizing death and glorious resurrection. It brought peace and good will to humanity, but there is sacrifice, humility and suffering within that peace-filled gesture of God’s good will to men.
Abolish Christmas? I prefer hearing “Happy Holidays” to not having the holiday at all.
Oh, and that third group that is thankful for the holidays being over? Those are the people who maxed out their credit cards, took out a second mortgage on the house, and now bang their heads on the table when they look at the incoming bills. Not exactly peace on earth, huh?