I've written about this before, but it's the time of year for the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" debate. You have probably received at least one email or Facebook request ("We say 'Merry Christmas'") that bemoans the fact that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas" or some such. Really? Is this the hill we want to die on?
Jon Acuf writes a blog called Stuff Christians Like. I think his take on this issue is excellent:
I wasn’t going to write about this one. ...Until I saw the billboard.
Sunday night, driving home from vacation with my family outside of Atlanta, GA, I saw a new billboard.
On a background of festive red, with big white letters I read a simple message:
I miss you saying “Merry Christmas.” – Jesus
And that’s when, much like the mafia, just when I thought I was out, they dragged me back into the conversation.
I don’t have a problem with that billboard, but there are three things it calls to mind:
1. We invented the phrase “Merry Christmas.”
I’ve only read the Bible from front to back one time. I read it a lot, but from a “read through it straight in 2 years point of view” I’ve only taken one spin. But when I did, I swear I couldn’t find the phrase, “Merry Christmas” anywhere. That billboard kind of makes it seem like Paul said that while he was making tents before he went on his wild missions. “Making tents on Christmas Eve. That is completely bogus. No one even said ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. All these heathen tent makers all say, ‘Happy Holidays.’ So whack.”
2. How do we know Jesus misses that?
Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. I honestly don’t know. Maybe Jesus would say things like “I miss hearing you say, ‘Let’s play some Frisbee golf’” or “I miss hearing you say that you pre-ordered the ‘Stuff Christians Like’ book.” I’m not certain, but I am certain that the times I’ve misquoted Jesus or put words in his mouth, in my mouth I’ve felt that feeling you get when you chew aluminum foil with metal fillings in your teeth. God isn’t technically striking me with lightning but He’s definitely firing up the lightning bolt 300 for imminent release.
3. We would be upset if someone else quoted Jesus for their cause.
If some other group made a billboard that quoted Jesus and that quote was not solidly based in the Bible, we would go spider monkey crazy. (You might rock out squirrel monkey style, but that’s really a personal preference thing.) If someone, even just for emphasis, quoted Jesus as supporting their cause and it wasn’t straight up Bible, we would be straight up upset.
I will see that billboard everyday during my commute, but I’m at peace with it. And there’s a pretty simple reason – It’s not belligerent. I always get a little weirded out when people aggressively make the distinction between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” I completely understand the frustration with a culture that is actively and deliberately removing Christ at every given opportunity, but when we angrily say, “It’s ‘Merry Christmas, not happy holidays!’” we might as well say, “It’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ not happy holidays you jerk!” And that makes people want to celebrate winter solstice instead of whatever those grumpy, fight you on a vernacular level Christians are down with.