A Not-So-Merry Christmas
By Janet Ruth
Christmas is coming. Fall decorations are gone, replaced by twinkling lights, artificial trees and Santa Clauses riding little reindeer. It’s a festive time of year with office parties, school musicals, and family gatherings. Yet, apparently, not everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit.
A few years ago, a number of major department stores made news by instructing their employees not to say “Merry Christmas.” Public schools have winter breaks instead of Christmas vacation. City and state governments are scaling back their holiday displays or giving equal time to other, minority religions. Christmas seems to be losing ground and losing popularity.
Christians have tried hard over the years to make Christmas a time everyone can enjoy. Christmas cards and wrapping paper show happy scenes of snowmen, cute animals, or silly cartoons. Christmas decorations fit any taste, from elegant bulbs and ribbons to cartoon characters and patriotic emblems. Santa Clause and his reindeer have little to do with Christianity, and angels fit in with many religious beliefs. Granted, the nativity scene of the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph is particular to the Christian faith, but it is rarely seen now and easy to ignore amid all the tinsel and trappings of the season. The Spirit of the Season is love and giving and family. Why can’t everyone get into that and join us in wishing each other a Merry Christmas?
Still, some people are offended by the idea of Christmas. As hard as we have tried to disguise it, some people still see Christmas as a celebration of a religious event exclusive to Christianity. They remember what many Christians seem to have forgotten – that this Jesus whose birth we celebrate claimed to be the Son of the one true God. He was God incarnate, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Is that offensive? If you are an atheist who believes God is nothing more than a harmful myth, yes. If you are a Muslim who believes it is sacrilege for anyone to claim to be equal with God, yes. If you are Jewish and still waiting for the promised Messiah to come, yes. There are even many who call themselves Christians who have difficulty accepting that Jesus really was the Son of God. At best, they consider this to be a divisive point and not central to their religious beliefs.
Yes, Christmas is offensive when you get right to the point of it. I’m afraid it isn’t the non-Christian minority who is missing the point of Christmas. It is the Christians themselves. Christmas is not just a holiday; it is a “holy” day. It is a day when we remember that God loved us so much he sent his only Son into the world to die as a sacrifice for our sins. Not everyone has accepted this precious gift. Those of us who have should hold onto it as something sacred and special, not something to be diluted and disguised so everyone can enjoy it.
The real meaning of Christmas is not merry to those who do not understand or accept it. Nor are they “persecuting” Christians when they say keep your holiday greetings to yourself. If we have nothing more to offer people than a simple “Merry Christmas” as we rush through our holiday shopping, then we are no better than Marie Antoinette when she said of the poor peasants of France who had no bread, “Let them eat cake!” So instead of being angry this year that not everyone “gets” Christmas, be thankful for what you yourself have been given. Remember the true meaning of Christmas – the offensive, special, exclusive meaning. And don’t be offended by people who don’t share your traditions. Remember that you have something more precious than traditions to share with them.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
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Janet Ruth is a Christian writer who believes in the sanctity of Christmas. She is a former attorney and college professor and currently a full-time mother. You can find more of her short insights at www.JaneTruth.com.
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