“Let me get this straight, saying “Happy Holidays” is a war on Christmas? What if I told you that from November 1st through January 15th the world’s major religions observe at least 29 different holidays – and yours aren’t the only ones that count?”
I saw this post on Facebook and at first glance I was a bit irritated. I am one that never sends out cards with “Happy Holidays” – my cards must have something related to Christ’s birth and the caption must say Merry Christmas. Not that I consciously oppose those who do not partake in the Christ of Christmas, but obviously, there is a little Jesus-pride going on with me.
I kept coming back to this FB post in my mind. I looked up some information on the internet about “other” religious holidays and found a nice calendar and lovely photos of some other major holidays, where and by whom they are celebrated. A great many are Orthodox Christian in origin, but there’s a lot of holidays celebrated that actually look nothing like the evil pagan rituals many Christ-followers conjure up when contemplating the war on Christmas with the slogan “happy holidays.”
As a rule, I try (try is the operative word here, definitely not going to pretend I’ve got this down) to focus my mind on what God says, not what people say. Because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of hogwash and hatred out there. It’s human nature, and I believe it can only be changed by reading and meditating on the Word of God. In the 3rd book of Colossians Paul gives us “Rules for Holy Living” and says to “set [our] hearts on things above . . . set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1b-2). A little later we have a “to do” list of sorts:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col 3:12-14
Paul tells us that for those of us who God called “chosen” – that would be not only His Chosen people the Jewish Nation, but any of us who have accepted the gift of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross – we are “holy” and “dearly loved.” But we need to act on this knowledge. We need to be holy because we are holy. Peter, one of the Apostles of Jesus, tells us “…just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do: for it is written: “’Be holy, because I am holy.’” In this New Testament scripture (1 Peter 1:15-16) Peter is quoting the Old Testament Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7. You know it’s pretty serious when God tells us to do something before Christ comes on to the scene and then after he’s gone. We need to “be holy” as God is Holy…that’s a “do” kind of thing in my mind.
I feel challenged by these two scriptures (okay, all scripture, but here it’s a little more manageable with just two). I am holy and dearly loved by God so I need to clothe, or cover, myself with COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, GENTLENESS, AND PATIENCE. That might just include those two simple words that make up that phrase “Happy Holidays.” Let’s not forget the next part of that command, to forgive whatever grievances we have against one another. I’m getting the distinct impression that God doesn’t want me to be irked with the people who say “Happy Holidays” or the cards I receive that delivers that wish for me, or the media pronouncements laced in the ads to get me to buy their products.
Honestly, if we humble ourselves to look at what God wants this Christmas I think it would look very different from what we picture under the tree. I think our world would look a lot different in “Christmas Future” if we Christ-followers stopped fussing over a few words, or even those other holidays and showed every single person (yes, you read that right) compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Every single person. That means the crabby person checking you out at the grocery store, the neighbor that delights in jabs about “those religious crazies,” that relative that gets stinking drunk at every holiday gathering, the person that broke your heart or cheated on you or lied to you or told you that they never wanted to hear another word about God from you. I think it especially means those people who are different than you. Those that have different beliefs, those that do things that you don’t agree with, that look different and smell different. Those people that say the exact opposite of what God says. Those that don’t believe there is a God and those that hate God. Wouldn’t that look a lot more like “putting on love?”
Lord you are the reason we celebrate. Not just at Christmas, but every day. You are the creator. Every single person is created in your image so we know that each person we encounter is deserving of our respect. Help us to love every individual as you do. Give us the courage and the strength to love those that are different from us. We can’t do this on our own Lord, only through your Holy Spirit that lives in us. We ask now, in humble awe of You, that we would be the difference in this world. We want others to know we are Christians by our love. Thank you, God, that you first put on love, by sending us Love, Jesus, on that day of His birth. In you alone are we able to put on love and show others how much you love them. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.