If you’re wished ‘Happy Holidays,’ simply say ‘Thank You’
There’s no question that, for pastors, Christmas is a very busy time of year. Like most churches, First Baptist hosts all kinds of special events during Advent. For me, December is just a blur of activity. In spite of this I love Christmas. I love Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. I love wrapping presents and (especially) unwrapping presents. I love singing carols and drinking eggnog. I love just about everything to do with Christmas. I say just about because there is one aspect of Christmas I don’t enjoy. I don’t enjoy the tendency of some of my fellow Christians to (seemingly) look for reasons to become outraged. What is it about Christmas that seems to bring out the moral indignation of believers? What do I mean?
Every year about this time I come across all kinds of blogs and articles and letters by Christians up in arms because some evil cashier or heathen store clerk has dared to wish them a Happy Holidays. These irate Christians proceed to rant on the evils of Canadian and American culture which is trying to remove any semblance of Christian meaning from Christmas and turn it into just another secular holiday on a par with Valentine’s Day (with the addition of a tree!).
Perhaps I’m in the minority here but in a world where I get cut off in traffic, am given one-finger salutes by those same drivers, and get yelled at by irate shoppers when I bring nine items into the one-to-eight checkout line, I’m just grateful to have somebody (anybody!) smile at me and wish me well. I can’t work up the slightest bit of moral indignation over that.
Another example: Around this time of year I can be guaranteed to come across letters and articles by Christians irate because they have seen the word, Xmas, written somewhere. There follows the predictable diatribe against taking Christ out of Christmas. Of course, if these righteous crusaders took just a minute to do a little research they would discover that the abbreviation, X, for Christ actually predates by centuries its use in garish advertisements. X is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter in the word Χριστός (“christos”). And Χριστός is translated Christ in English. And, as I said, the X in Χριστός has been a common abbreviation for the word Christ for hundreds of years. But that’s just me being a spoilsport—why let facts interfere with a good case of moral outrage!
What is it about Christians at Christmas that make us want to be on the lookout for something to be offended by? Political cartoonist Tim Kreider has labelled this tendency towards indignation as “outrage porn”—an innate desire we all have to feel both “(1) right and (2) wronged.” There just seems to be in each of us a desire to feel superior to others. And there’s nothing like a good rant to give us a strong sense of moral superiority.
But is that really what Christmas is all about? Did God come in flesh to this earth so that we can get worked up over cashiers who wish us Happy Holidays and people who write Xmas instead of Christmas? I think not. Rather, I think Jesus came to show us a new way—a better way—of treating one another—the way of love and acceptance and understanding rather than of anger and judgment. So, this season, when someone wishes you a Happy Holiday show the true spirit of Xmas and say simply, “Thank you.”