The ‘Merry Christmas’ Flap

By Mark A. Taylor

Before I say what I want to say, let me say what many readers will want to hear: I happily greet waiters and store clerks and anyone else (not just Christians) with “Merry Christmas.” Likewise, my Christmas cards this year, as they have every year, will proclaim “Merry Christmas.” I avoid “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” and flinch whenever I encounter either greeting, whether at Wal-Mart or on the radio or from a smiling car salesman in a TV commercial.

To me it’s just silly the lengths to which some will go to avoid the word Christmas. I heard about the directive professors at a state university received 15 years ago as December approached. They were to wish students and each other “Seasonal Peace.” No Merry Christmas at that school!

Thankfully, Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina has made a better decision, although common sense evidently was not the school’s first instinct. As reported by World magazine, the school earlier instructed a student group they must sell “holiday trees,” not “Christmas trees.” After a coalition called Alliance Defending Freedom warned that forbidding their use of “Christmas” was violating students’ First Amendment rights, the school reversed its decision.

I’m glad. But frankly, (and this is the part some readers may not want to hear) I think it’s silly for Christians to make a flap about what words others choose to label our December celebration. If my company gives me a free “Holiday Lunch,” I’m ready to eat it. If a store has a “Holiday Sale” on items I want to buy at prices I’m willing to pay, I’ll gladly give them my cash. A secular America is not going to be saved because Target decides to mount a “Merry Christmas” banner on its big box or Kroger’s has a sale on “Christmas hams.”

I’m pretty sure our unchurched, un-Christian neighbors don’t give a figgy pudding about which label we use for our observance. They might notice, though, if we demonstrate Jesus to them in our yearlong interactions:

If we’re kind to the neighbor whose dog sullies our lawn . . . If we help a neighbor with our tools and our time (and if we graciously allow him or her to help us) . . . If we demonstrate integrity in all our dealings . . . If we treat local school officials with respect . . . If we avoid gossip about coworkers or the problem family down the block . . . If our Christianity is a natural part of our weekly rhythms and not just a set of rules and traditions they probably don’t understand . . . And if they see that our Christmas is more than the usual secular American observance except for a nativity scene and weekend church service added in, then we’ll have done our part to restore some meaning to this holiday.

And that will accomplish more than all the complaining Christians can do because secular sources don’t call our holiday Christmas.

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6 Comments

  1. Al Forthman
    December 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Brother Mark:
    Thank you for saying what needed to be said! The biggest threat to Christmas is the lack of a demonstration of Christ’s love from us, and not only in December!

  2. December 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Very well said, Mark! Merry Christmas!

  3. December 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    If we create a ton of tension to have the right to say “Merry Christmas,” we suck the life and joy out the statement when we say it.

  4. December 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    “I think it’s silly for Christians to make a flap about what words others choose to label our December celebration.”

    That’s really what it comes down to. Anytime we expect the world to adopt our language, reflect “traditional” Christian values, or emulate Christ, we’re going to be frustrated, because they simply aren’t going to do it. We need to pick our battles, and rather than engaging in an an artificial war on Christmas our effort would be better utilized engaging others with the same love, grace and mercy that we have been freely given.

  5. December 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Amen Mark! Thanks for sharing this.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a blessed 2013!

  6. December 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Agreed!

    Thanks, Mark!

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