[M]an’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:20
It seems that at Christmastime, one thing that’s as predictable as Santa is the controversy over public expressions of faith – whether or not one says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” whether or not a manger scene is permitted in a town hall display, and the ever-popular righteous indignation over the term “Xmas.” At a time when all eyes could and should be on Emmanuel – “God with us” – instead, the world is treated to the modern American stereotype of a follower of Jesus – the Angry Christian.
In America we Christians seem to have become spoiled, having grown up with rights such as free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Some of us also had the advantage, or disadvantage, of growing up in a society where the Christian faith was the norm. In case you haven’t noticed, this is no longer the case. In our comfortable complacency, have we forgotten what Jesus was all about?
He was conceived in the womb of an unmarried girl, in a culture where the penalty for fornication was death by stoning. He was born far from His mother’s and foster father’s home, in a stable, because the only welcome He received was a “No Vacancy” sign. He was sought after by the king of that region, and His parents had to flee to a foreign country for Him to survive. He grew up poor, with few, if any, rights under Roman rule. His ministry was met with mixed reviews. Some loved Him, some wanted to stone Him. And some eventually condemned Him to death by crucifixion. He was cursed, beaten, spat on, mocked, and executed. And before He died, He told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” (John 15:18)
So, why are we so indignant that the world doesn’t receive us with open arms? Why do we expect people to say “Merry Christmas” who have no idea what we are celebrating? Why do we want our government to display our Savior’s birth, when we ourselves fall so short of displaying His glory in our own lives? What is it about resenting the term “Xmas” that somehow makes us holier than everyone else?
Some random thoughts:
Thought #1: “Happy Holidays” means just that. It’s someone’s friendly way of saying, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” and possibly “Happy Hanukkah!” (Hey, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah – John 10:22. If it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me.) If the person is deliberately avoiding mentioning Christmas in particular, a sour look on your face is probably not going to make him fall on his face and cry out, “What must I do to be saved?!”
Thought #2: Since our government represents all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs, it MAY be inappropriate to display a manger scene on public property. Not being a constitutional lawyer, I can’t say for sure. Some would say it’s not unconstitutional to put up such a display, but my thoughts are: Is anyone going to be saved or lost depending upon whether some statues are displayed in front of a courthouse? And if not, is this really the hill you want to die on? Here’s a thought: If your town won’t tolerate a manger scene on public property and you own property, put up a manger scene in front of your house. If all the people complaining about the lack of manger scenes had one in front of their own houses, the true meaning of Christmas would be everywhere!
Thought #3: Chi or “X” is the first letter in the Greek word for “Christ.” It was one of the secret symbols used by early Christians to identify themselves in times of persecution. So, the terms “Xmas” and “Christmas” are basically the same thing. If you really want to show your spiritual superiority, you may want to explain that to the ignorant masses, and you might get a dialog going. – Just kidding! There are probably better ways of showing your love for Christ than quibbling over His name. (He has many!)
As Rebecca LuElla Miller, a fellow blogger, has pointed out, a great way to celebrate Jesus is to do something He would do – volunteer at a soup kitchen, ring a bell for the Salvation Army, or make a sizable donation to a ministry you believe in. Upset about the secular drivel you’re hearing on the radio that passes for “Christmas music”? Why not gather some friends and visit a nursing home, foster care facility, or hospital, and sing the real stuff? LOVE people in Jesus’ name. I guarantee it will make a more positive impact than any protest, boycott, or bad attitude.