Saturday, December 3, 2011
Merry Christmas: The Great Debate
Before Reading: Take the 5 question "Merry Christmas" quiz
Christianity wasn't always a predominant religion--with approximately 2 billion adherents worldwide, I think it is safe to call it predominant. However, initially it was a band of 12 ruffians (well, maybe Matthew wasn't a ruffian...but Peter, James and John...definitely unrefined, red-necks). How they were able to spread Jesus' teachings in their lifetime and then have that teaching carry on so that 400 years later it became the state religion of Rome is beyond the scope of this post...however, it was at about that time that "Christmas" started.
As Christianity grew, it was brushing up against paganism and many folks were still celebrating some of the old pagan holidays. Old habits die hard, so a move was made to have a "Christian" celebration fall at the same time as an old pagan party so that rather than give up a party, the purpose would shift. (Click here for a great discussion on the history of Christmas--I don't agree with everything...but it is in depth.)
And, really, isn't that sort of what's happened in culture today? For Christians, since about 400AD, there originally had been a focus on the actual event of Jesus' birth. However, as our society has become increasingly secularized, the meaning of the celebration has changed. For some, Christmas is about family. For some, it's about gifts. For business, it's about profit.
Some Christians think that we should fight back and demand that people say, "Merry Christmas" and not water down our holiday with "Happy Holidays." Historically, it is interesting that the predominant cultural norm has always won the day. The December holiday originally was a pagan celebration of nature/sun/solstice. As Christianity became dominant the pagan holiday was co-opted and given a new meaning. Now that commercialism is the predominant force (religion?) of our culture, gifts are taking precedence.
Fighting over a greeting isn't going to win the culture war. Christians should remember that the magic of Christmas is that the King of Kings was born in a manger demanding nothing and giving everything. Christians should be counter-cultural and should be known not for what we are against, but for the love that we show to others...whether they say, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."
And, for those that wish folks wouldn't say "Merry Christmas," my suggestion is that, if someone does greet you that way, you simply wish them a "Happy Boxing Day." Or, simply say "thank you" for their wish that you would have a special day, celebrated however you choose to celebrate that particular day.
This post is now up for discussion.