So this is Christmas

The Baptist Press has reported Poll: Americans want to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in stores.  This is preferred to simply saying ‘Happy Holidays’.  Wonderful, right?  Yes, maybe, but why?  I really wish the poll had included a “why” section.  I would like to hear the reasons.  I want to make a couple of general observations and then appeal to the Christian with a few things to think about.     

Selling Christ

What is it that a store is celebrating?  Whether a store is advertising with ‘Merry christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ what they mean is ‘Come shop with us’.  I’m sure there are well-meaning employees who sincerely want to keep Christ the main focus this holiday season.  I’m not claiming these folks don’t exist, but the ultimate goal is to attract customers to make a profit.  There is nothing wrong with making a profit either.  This is also not being disputed.  However, these decision makers have just been told how to market Christ.

In an effort to keep Christ visible, even if in name only, marketing departments have been told how to sell Christ.  I’m sure that’s not the intent, but that’s what happens.  Ultimately, if all stores turned to “Happy Holidays” consumers who disagree end up with no place to turn as all the shopping options would have been secured against “Merry Christmas”.  Then, a few would discover this and change to “Merry Christmas” to attract more business only to be followed by most of the others.  

The Merry Christmas offense

Legally, U.S. Code Title 5,6103 establishes “Christmas Day, December 25” as a holiday.  Technically saying Merry Christmas is legally correct.  So if you don’t like when someone properly says “Merry Christmas” then don’t say it back and don’t get upset about it either.  Sorry, but again Christmas is the actual holiday being legally observed although you personally may observe others if you like.  There is also the option that if someone has such a dislike for Christmas they can always start a movement to change the legal name of the holiday.  What would those in favor of “Merry Christmas” do then?   

Maybe you are offended by Merry Christmas and like Happy Holidays better.  Though personally you may celebrate what you like it still comes back to which holiday is actually being celebrated.  Whether you are celebrating a holiday for religious reasons or not, what is happy about this particular time of year?  I posit that what is happy is simply a cultural observance of feeling good about ourselves through helping others.  It feels good to help someone whether directly or by simply supporting a cause.  We’ve defined this season as a time to be with family and/or be thankful for all we have.  So those who have less than us or have no families can really make us feel good about our deeds.  I am certainly not saying this is a bad thing to do for it is good to help people.  Regardless of the motive, I’m glad there are those who reach out to others in need.

An Appeal to Christians

What are you thinking about when you say “Merry Christmas”?  When someone is offended by that phrase?  What should you be thinking about?  I have a suggestion, “God with us.”  Let everything else funnel through that understanding.  We have made and accepted a time in which to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.  Yet, in so many places during this time of year only His name appears.  Sure, the RSVP has Jesus’ name on the envelope, but there is no invitation inside.  It’s like putting an empty envelope in the offering plate.  It’s meaningless.   

When a store puts up “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” because many prefer it, what does it accomplish?  Instead, maybe, just maybe, Christians should be offended by companies using our Savior as a way to sell product.  Is Christ really being honored as “God with us” by having His name plastered on advertisements everywhere?  I’m going to go ahead and say no.  I’m saying that maybe we should not care too much about how secular companies advertise during Christmas time.  These places certainly aren’t doing this for the Gospel regardless of the name plate.

Are you a living, breathing example of merry Christian?  God is with us year round not just during Christmas so what makes this time of year merrier than another?  I have wondered if keeping Christ’s name visible during this time of year is a way for some to think we are really getting Christ’s name out in the public.  You know, instead of witnessing just show everyone a banner in the major department stores.  It’s just a suspicion and I could be wrong. 

Right or wrong, we can use these advertisements to witness to people.  In the same way that people hand out tracts you can point someone to the Christ in the Christmas banner and begin talking about Him and present the Gospel.  Or when someone says “Happy Holidays” say, “Thanks, but I prefer Merry Christmas and let me share with you why…”  When someone says “Merry Christmas” talk to them about why it is merry.  Let’s use it to our advantage.

We should be merry Christians praising the Savior year round.  Remember, God is with us so let’s share Him with them.  I’m all for helping people, but let our reason be Jesus.  What message are we giving when we send kids toys without sending them Jesus?  Let me put it this way, “What does it profit a child if he gains all the toys in the world, but loses his soul?”  Jesus Christ is too much of a treasure to keep locked away unto ourselves.  Let’s give people a reason to say “Merry Christmas”.

–Mark

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