Happy Holidays??? Happy Holidays!!!

From a "holiday" ad for Victoria's Secret

I'm grateful to be part of a rotation of faith leaders in my town who take turns writing a column titled "Voices of Faith" in the local weekly, The Concord Journal.  Here's my latest installment.

It’s that time of year again: time to figure out the style of holiday greetings we exchange.  May I, a Christian, wish my Jewish friend a Happy Hanukkah?  I know I’m pleased to do so even though I don’t celebrate my friend’s festival of lights.  Would I be offended if my Jewish friend wished me a Merry Christmas?  Not at all.  Nor would I be put off should she wish me “Happy Holidays.”

I have no trouble understanding that some folks have different takes on this issue.  When speaking to clerks in stores or passing by folks I don’t know, I’m inclined to say “Happy Holidays,” recognizing that I don’t know what feast they may be celebrating. (Fortunately, it’s rare to run into someone who celebrates NO holiday!)  If those who don’t share my beliefs prefer not to be greeted in my faith’s vocabulary, I’m more than willing, pleased in fact, to honor that.

There’s only one situation where the greeting issue rubs me the wrong way and that’s at the doors of my own church.  It’s not unusual now, as Christmas approaches, for members of my parish to wish me “Happy Holidays” as I greet them on their way out of church on Sunday morning.  Truly: the one instance where you can be sure a “Merry Christmas” won’t offend is at the door of your Christian house of worship as you greet your pastor!

I just read that one national organization has put together a “naughty and nice” listing of stores based on their willingness to use “Christmas” in their seasonal advertising.  In case you’re wondering, Macy’s, Amazon.com, Target and Toys “R” Us have earned a “nice” rating while companies like Barnes and Noble, Radio Shack, Foot Locker and Victoria’s Secret can expect a lump of coal in their stocking on December 25.

Hmm…  let's think about this a bit.  Do I really want the commercial world taking advantage of one of the holiest days on my faith’s calendar to push their sales and pump their profits?  If I were to shop at Victoria’s Secret, would I really want to hear “Silent Night” or “Away in a Manger” as I picked out some nice, lacy…  well, you can see where that’s heading.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a pastor and a preacher.  Getting the Word out is my life’s work!  But I’m not sure I want the business world to co-opt my evangelizing efforts.  We’re often reminded that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and that’s great!  But I’m not sure that “Keeping Christ in Christmas” means keeping him in the catalogues and advertising that flood us around the holidays.

Christians celebrate a great feast on December 25: the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  On this day we celebrate God’s becoming one like us in all things except sin.  In Christ, born in Bethlehem, humanity and divinity are made one, giving us hope of life forever.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating with my parish in just a few weeks.  What commerce makes of our belief, what it does with our holy day, is something I’ve little control over, one way or the other.  So, until December 25 we’ll be celebrating Advent in my church, a season of preparing for what it’s all about: God’s saving love for the world and all of us who dwell in it. 

To all who read these words: my best to you and yours and my prayer that whatever holiday you keep will deepen your faith and bring you joy the whole year ‘round.


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