Recently, I noticed that a friend on mine had posted the following statement on Facebook.
“I don't care who this offends because this is what I believe. I am sick and tired of every year when CHRISTMAS comes around; there are people who want to take CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS because it might offend someone. Well, how about all of the CHRISTIANS? What about offending us because you are taking our CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS!?!? CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS!!! If you aren't celebrating CHRIST then why are you celebrating? CHRISTMAS is about the birth of our SAVIOR! CHRISTMAS is one of a few holidays left that celebrate my CHRIST! Leave my holiday alone!!! And tell everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holidays! Repost if your not ashamed”
After I read it, I thought about it for a long while and wondered if what greeting we us at Easter and Christmas was an issue and why.
I began by considering the fact that many people that are not Christians, but still shop in the same establishments as they do throughout the rest of the year, would be offended and how badly. I think it would be wrong to intentionally offend a person just because they are of a different faith. So, I started up my handy dandy search engine and stepped off on my quest to see who might be offended.
I decided to look at two possibilities; other religious holidays that share the same season a Christmas and how many people would be offended because of their particular religion.
I discovered only two major celebrations that coincide with the Christmas Season, Kwanza and Chanukah.
Chanukah (Hanukkah) is the Jewish Celebration of Lights which commemorates the reclamation of Jerusalem and the story about the one day supply of nondesecrated oil in the Temple after all the Syrian idols were removed. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days, until a supply of usable oil arrived so that the Temple could be rededicated. The celebration begins on December 20th through December 28th in 2011. The celebration is based on the Jewish calendar so the dates are slightly different on our calendars each year.
Kwanza is a cultural celebration rather than a religious observance. Kwanza begins on December 26th and ends January 1st. Kwanza celebrates the African-American culture, who they are, what struggles they have faced and what their vision of the future is. The name “Kwanza, is derived from the Kiswahili word meaning “first fruits.”
I do not have empirical evidence, but I would suggest that since it is not a religious celebration, most African-Americans would not expect store clerks and wait people to wish them a “Happy Kwanza”, unless it would be a business that actually participated in the celebration. In my mind, most African-Americans, until the celebration becomes more established, would be offended by hearing “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Happy Kwanza.”
Unless they are in an establishment that participates in the Chanukah celebration or they wore some identification indicating that they were not Christian but Jewish, I don’t think that Jewish people would be offended if a store clerk or an acquaintance were to wish them a “Merry Christmas.”
In my experiences, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’, a Christian organization, have been the most vocal in correcting me when I would wish them a “Merry Christmas” or mention anything about the holiday.
I walked down the other path I had decided on and looked at the population of the U.S. to see if the ethnic diversity would demand that Christians be more sensitive.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the U. S. is comprised of 79.96% white, 12.85% Black, 4.43% Asian, the other 2%+ is made up of Native Americans and a variety of other ethnic groups.
According to the latest Survey, 76% of the adult population of the United States identify as being Christian. About 1% identify themselves as Jewish. 14% of respondents claimed no religion at all. The remaining 9% is made up of Muslims, Buddhist, Hindu and a variety of non-conventional religious disciplines.
When I got to this point I realized that the number of people who would be offended by someone wishing them “Merry Christmas” was very small. I could see no reason why stores would be concerned about the term. I asked my wife what she meant when she wished someone “Merry Christmas”; she told me that when she was a lot younger it was a salutation of joy shared with other Christians but that over the years as Christmas became more commercialized, it was just two empty words, spoken out of habit. That gave me even more to think about.
When I was about eleven or twelve, I remember passing a church’s outside announcement board that had the words ”At Christmas, whose birthday do we celebrate” A little lower was a picture of Santa Claus and another of Jesus Christ. Above each picture were the word “His” and between them the word “or.” That vision is as clear to me today as it was fifty-five years ago. And the question even more important that it was then.
Too many Christians complain about how commercial Christmas has become while they are shopping in every store within ten miles of their homes, buying every new gadget, toy, or gizmo on the market, and complaining because the clerks said, “have a nice holiday” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.”
Based on the uproar over the “war on Christmas” that someone with too much time on their hands dreamed up, one would expect to see most churches bursting at the seems on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Guess what! Attendance has dwindled over the past fifty years to the point that most churches have given up on Christmas Eve services. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are filled with the self satisfaction for finding the best, most, and most expensive gifts, most of which will end up in the trash or the fall garage sale to make room for the new batch of stuff that will show up on the December 24th and 25th of the next year. Most will never tell the Christmas Story much less contemplate its meaning. The truth is, we don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, we celebrate the retail industry’s season of profits. We celebrate our ability to spend money we don’t have and scorn those who have nothing to eat. We celebrate with our big Christmas Eve parties while our brothers and sisters sleep in the cold, under a bridge or in an abandon building. I hope Jesus does not come back like that. The greeting we get from store clerks is irrelevant, because whatever greeting they use, those words are devoid of any meaning.
As Christians we should start backtracking to a time when everyone knew what Christmas was about. Everyone knew the story of the birth of the savior of all mankind. Giving gifts is fine, but if we call ourselves Christians, its time to walk the walk and celebrate the universes greatest gift, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God!
I hear arguments that Christmas is not the date of the birth of Christ, that it is a pagan holiday. I know how we got December 25 as the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. The accuracy of the date is unimportant, the meaning of the celebration, for Christians, is.
As a Christian, I believe the war that started way back in the Garden of Eden, the birth of Christ was just one very important day in the war, soon will come the last battle will be fought and everyone will know the true meaning of Christmas.
I’m glad I was given a push to think about Christmas, as I haven’t for a long time. I thank that old friend who has caused me to remember whose birthday it is!