It bothers me when people get upset at others for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I used to be one of them that thought that anything but recognizing that “Christ Jesus is the reason for the season” was tantamount to the worst sin.
But, as I have reflected on Christmases past, particularly the fact that I can’t remember but one or two childhood Christmases, I have had to recognize that Christmas doesn’t mean the same for everyone. Even more important, I have had to accept that that’s okay. Let me explain.
I wasn’t raised for the majority of my childhood in a religious home, but we did celebrate Christmas, just like all of the rest of the world. As a child, it was a time of receiving toys and getting to eat apples and oranges, nuts and peppermint candy, things we couldn’t afford during the year.
We got a break from school and there was an overall sense of joy and cheerfulness. It seemed like a time of celebration, as the year with all of its ups and downs was ending and we prepared to start over again in a new year.
I don’t know how old I was when I first learned the holiday was a celebration for the birth of Jesus. But, once I became a Christian, that became the only acceptable explanation for the holiday. I would read the Christmas story in Luke to my children, trying to instill in them a sense of wonder in the gift of a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
I would get upset, like so many today, when unbelievers seemed to be enjoying the holiday but didn’t even believe in Jesus. But, lately, I have stopped and asked myself why am I so upset about other people’s reasons for celebrating at this time?
I know that not everyone believes in Jesus, and while I may wish that they would, I’d give my life for their right in a democracy not to believe and to celebrate their own reasons for the season. Also, I recognize that other holidays are celebrated in December, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and I disrespect them if I insist on no one wishing them well on these days.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” His birth, life, death, resurrection, and soon second coming are reasons for me to be joyful all year long, not just at the end of the year.
I understand that all the buying of toys and gifts are great for our economy. This day seemed to me, even as a child, as a way for stores to go into the black for the year. The beginning of the season comes earlier and earlier these days, and it reminds me that for many stores, the season is about making money. Nowhere in the Bible are we asked to celebrate Christ in such a way. Don’t get me wrong! I love this time of year, like everyone else, but maybe not for the same reasons.
Let us be respectful this holiday season. Don’t forget we live in a country predicated on freedom of religion, and that we don’t have a right to insist that everyone see the season as Christians do.
Instead, I hope that the joy of this time permeates the hearts of everyone. I thank the servicemen and servicewomen who are deployed around the world to protect our rights, and I wish them and their families joy and peace for the sacrifices they make for all of us.