‘Tis the season to be offended. If it’s not that red cup from your favorite coffee shop it will be the audacity of a department store greeter wishing you happy holidays. Your Christmas is sure to be ruined because of the pagan practices of many heathens this month.
Let me start with sympathy. I understand the culture is different from how it used to be. Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ as silently but strategically being attacked and replaced. The subtle changes from year to year may be hardly noticeable, but you can be sure they are there. And Christmas is not immune. I have noticed my daughters children’s specials this month celebrating alternatives to Christmas in order to be inclusive. I have noticed more neutral sayings replacing the traditional “Merry Christmas.” And it is obvious that the number one person worshipped this month in America will be Santa Claus, not Jesus.
So when I write this, I’m not ignorant of the times. I’m also not saying you don’t have a right to be concerned or offended. But regardless of your bitterness towards those signs that say “xmas” instead of Christmas, we are called to respond with love and Christian character. Here are six things to keep in mind when you feel the urge to be offended by the culture this Christmas.
1. We are called to live at peace with everyone. Many Christians are looking for a fight. Why be joyful when you can be offended? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord.” Yikes! Without peace and holiness, no one will see the Lord. On the other side, our kind, peaceful response may allow someone to get a glipse of the peace of Christ’s salvation.
2. We are called to understand the plurality of the season. Here’s where the comments will come. Hear me out. There are people who celebrate other holidays in December – Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus…. There are people who celebrate multiple holidays along side Christmas. And others who don’t celebrate at all. Many businesses encourage the phrase “Happy Holidays” to incorporate an inclusivity.
Recognizing the plurality of the season does not mean Christians should embrace the plurality of the season. I say “Merry Christmas” to people not knowing what they celebrate. But I do not get offended by lost people celebrating other holidays. Let me ask you this, how do you expect a lost person to act? I expect them to act lost! That means they aren’t going to understand the “why” behind Christmas. 1 Corinthians 2:14 is key here – “But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” Don’t embrace plurality, but recognize that it is present in our lost culture.
3. We are called to worship the Savior, not His birthday. This is really the crux, isn’t it? What is more sacred, Christmas or the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas? I’m appalled at the number of people offended by red cups and “Happy Holiday” that are simultaneously not offended by the hostile takeover of Christmas by consumerism. Or have large family gatherings to exchange gifts, a meal, and pleasantries without once mentioning Christ. Christians, we have taken Christ out of Christmas and the culture has simply capitalized on it! Remember what is important this season!
4. We can accept a kind gesture when it’s intended. There are some smug individuals that enjoy offending you. But they are much rarer than you think. The vast majority of people who with you a “Happy Holidays” are trying to be courteous. Perhaps they are recognizing the plurality of the season. Or maybe it is just easier to say “Happy Holidays” than to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” But it is okay just to accept a person’s kind words and understand the intent behind them isn’t malicious.
5. We must pick our battles. Babies are being aborted. The culture of divorce is growing and the importance families are being belittled. The credibility of the Bible is being attacked. These things are worth fighting for. If I’m going to get angry about anything, it’s not going to be the shortened spelling of Christmas. Pick your battles and recognize there are bigger fish to fry.
6. We are called to represent the gospel. Let me repeat Hebrews 12:14 – “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord.” When we respond angrily or even passive aggressively toward someone who is wishing you well, you tarnish their view of Christians and therefore tarnish their view of Christ.
So how do you respond to someone who wishes you “Happy Holidays.” Are you ready to write this down? Bookmark this for future reference? The best way to respond to someone who says, “Happy Holidays” is to say… “Thank you.” You might even throw in a genuine (not sarcastic) “Merry Christmas.” Repay kindness with kindness. And understand that the gospel is more important than the holiday.