Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
It’s that time of year again, a time to celebrate peace on earth and, if necessary, shove it down your neighbor’s throat. While this year’s controversies seem fewer than previous years’, the question of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” vs “whatever holiday you Wannakuh” continue. What’s a Christian to do?
First of all, this is a question of Christian liberty. The simplest answer is, “Whatever you want,” and the answer may be that simple. The Bible doesn’t dictate how to respond to a cashier in a store except with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) Sadly, we’re sometimes so adamant about making sure people keep “Christ in Christmas” that “Merry Christmas” becomes a battle cry instead of a joyous greeting. You can’t demand that anyone acknowledge or observe a particular holiday any more than you can demand that someone believe that, in Jesus Christ, the infinite God became a human baby.
It seems that we’re more concerned about shopping centers proclaiming Christ than our own lives. Instead of getting angry when the store clerk says, “Happy Holidays,” you have several options:
- Say, “Thanks. You, too.” (You do celebrate the pagan holiday of the New Year, too, right?)
- Say, “Thanks, and merry Christmas to you,” with a smile on your face.
- Say, “Thanks. I’m sure the extra work for you can make it not so happy, but I hope you can find joy in the midst of it.” (Compassion—pretty novel, right?)
- Beat them to it, but not as a race. As they ring up your order, say something like, “Sometimes, it’s hard to see how all this was intended to point to God becoming a baby to save mankind.”
Whatever you say, say it with joy. God has become man, and since the world crucified Him the first time, we shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again and again, but that’s why He came. Whatever the world happens to say to you, thank God that the same stores that don’t allow their employees to say, “Merry Christmas,” often have, “Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord,” piped over their speakers in the store. Enjoy the irony, and take a moment to pray for those who work and shop in that store, that as they wrap their gifts, they come to know the One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger to save them.