During Christmas time it is not uncommon to hear phrase Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Of course, many people still say Merry Christmas. I prefer Merry Christmas and will even reply as such when people say Happy Holidays to me. Depending on the worldview there are people who not only prefer one phrase to the other, but are offended when his or her particular holiday greeting is not used.
In recent years, some large department stores moved away from using the term Christmas to using Holiday instead. This move upset many Christians who complained to those stores. Many of those stores decided to go back to using Christmas in their advertising. However, no matter what description a store uses for the Christmas holiday season, it does not move that store any closer to being a Christian organization.
Department stores that use verbiage to avoid negative press and make the majority of their customers happy may find themselves in a tough spot. Depending on one’s perception of a store’s advertisements said store may be charged with using Christmas to sell products. Of course, the goal of advertising is to sell products regardless of the time of year. Stores will not be able to please everyone with their ads.
Yet the official American holiday is Christmas.
In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law officially declaring Christmas a U.S. Federal holiday. One might ask just what was meant by Christmas in 1870. The 1828 dictionary definition was as follows.
The festival of the Christian church observed annually on the 25th day of December, in memory of the birth of Christ, and celebrated by a particular church service. The festival includes twelve days.1
Years later, in 1913, Christmas was defined as:
An annual church festival (December 25) and in some States a legal holiday, in memory of the birth of Christ, often celebrated by a particular church service, and also by special gifts, greetings, and hospitality.2
The legal U.S. holiday is Christmas which is the celebration of the birth of Christ just a Christians say. Christmas is still in the U.S. Code along with the Federal holidays – Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day.3 I am unaware of any other holiday besides Christmas where people try to change the name to something more general in opposition to the actual name of the holiday. Imagine if people tried to change the name of MLK day, Memorial Day, Independence Day or Veterans Day. Considering that Christmas is the official U.S. holiday, etc. one might argue that Merry Christmas is the most acceptable phrase since that is the actual holiday which is observed.
Does this mean Christians should only accept Merry Christmas and reject and protest all other holiday expressions?
There is no doubt that Jesus is the reason for the season for Christians. Is He the reason for non-Christians as well? Observing Christmas as an official Federal holiday in some fashion is not the same as celebrating the birth of Jesus. There are people who do not think much of MLK day or Columbus day, but will take the day off of work. So it should not be surprising that people will take a day off of work, give and receive presents, put up a tree or say Merry Christmas; none of which have anything to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus. A Christian doing those things to the glory of God in memory of Jesus’ death is another story, however.
Yet Christmas is still about Jesus!
Yes, Christmas is still about Jesus for the Christian. A nonbiblical Jesus without the gospel is no Jesus at all. Christians may continue to say Merry Christmas during this season regardless of what others say in response. Christians should expect that non-Christians are offended by Jesus and His gospel (1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8). If the situation allows, use your Merry Christmas as an opportunity to joyfully, not angrily, share the gospel. The unbeliever’s mind is not going to be changed without the gospel because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18).
So don’t have a gospel-less Christmas, but have a merry one by displaying effect of the gospel provided by the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23 ESV).