Unfortunately, he’s right. There are calls to picket stores because their advertising says, “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” There are some in an uproar because town squares now have “Holiday trees” rather than Christmas trees.
It is amazing that the spirit of the holiday seems to be one of all out warfare. It doesn’t seems to strike many that it is at all ironic that we begin celebrating the holiday with fights in store aisles over low priced laptop computers and continue by organizing boycotts against those who would try to make money on “our holiday” without using “our words.”
Of course, in a way none of the above is really new. Christians have been fighting over Christmas for centuries. I remember, when I was a boy, those who condemned advertisers as trying to take Christ out of Christmas by using the spelling, Xmas. This was basically a revelation of their own ignorance. The “X” in Xmas is actually the Greek letter chi. Chi is the first letter in the Greek spelling of Christ and is an ancient Christian symbol. (Of course, I was ignorant of this back in those days too).
Controversy over Christmas trees is also not new, but the argument has shifted.. As late as the 1840s, Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans. (You have probably noticed that there was no Christmas tree in the stable in Bethlehem.) The ancient Romans used evergreens in their pagan worship to celebrate the Solstice, and the Druids used them as an expression of their belief in eternal life.
Christians have always struggled as to how to keep Christmas a sacred observance. Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event." In 1659, Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations.
One thing is clear. Christmas is not the occasion to exercise power, either political or economic. At Christmas, God chose to come into the world in the most powerless, non-threatening way possible---as a little baby. The exercise of power in a “defense of Christmas” is totally out of bounds.
I saw a cartoon last Christmas which showed two automobile drivers in a mall parking lot yelling at each other. The Christian driver yelled, “Hey, you! Merry Christmas, Bub!!”
The non-Christian shouted: “Oh Yea?!! Well, Happy Holidays to you, Fella!!”
An onlooker remarked: “Tidings of comfort and joy…”
Oh that it were so! To all, I say, “Merry Christmas!” You may greet me however you wish, and I will feel blessed.
“Peace on earth! Good will toward men!
©2005 C. David Hess