Over the last several years, there has been quite a bit of consternation from Christians about what they perceive to be the "unChristianizing" of American culture. Now, I have quite a bit to say about that, and we could probably have a good time discussing it, but I'm not going to delve into that big picture conversation today. Rather, I am going to address just one small bite of it.
There are folks who get exercised because government entities, businesses, and media seem to avoid the traditional "Merry Christmas" greeting in favor of a more generic "Happy Holidays." Or, they are offended that some folks list out several other holiday greetings along with Christmas. Or public schools have "holiday" or "winter" programs rather than the explicitly Christmas programs of their youth.
I'm going to try and be kind here, and I mean this in all true love and affection:
There are many things to be offended about in our society that are explicitly anti-Christian, including the general coarsening of our culture. (Feel free to jump back to February, 2012 and read my blog "I Don't Curse.") More importantly, there are aspects of our society that explicitly draw folks away from the love and grace of God and lead to idolatry, such as consumerism and idolatrous nationalism. If we were talking about those, I would be interested in participating.
But getting offended because someone greets you with "Happy Holidays!" Seriously?
The truth is, we cannot expect our local, state, or federal government - in all its manifestations, including public schools, and the public square - to explicitly tell the story of Jesus. We cannot expect businesses to go out of their way to remind folks of the true reason for the season. We cannot expect the media to get the Christian story correct. After all, every time I see a news article, TV report or internet story reporting on something about which I have a direct connection, the media gets it wrong.
It's not the government's job to declare the Incarnation. It's not the bottom-line mission of most businesses to preach the gospel. And it's not the media's responsibility to bless us with the message of the birth of the Savior.
It's the job of the church.
And if my community is being inundated with the message of "BUY, BUY, BUY" but not hearing about a virgin with child who is the Messiah, then it is the fault of my church and the other churches in our community. And if our children are so busy learning "Jingle Bells" and other secular songs - and even songs that celebrate the holidays of other groups and traditions - and are not learning the songs of the real meaning of Christmas, that is not a failure of our schools, but a failure of our Christian homes.
The story of Christmas is our story to tell. We tell it first with our lives, with how we treat people all year long. And by building relationships, we earn the right to tell them about the Christ and how his birth changes everything.
And, to be honest, I would much prefer that people smile at me and say "Happy Holidays" then swear at me with a frown and a look that can kill. Although, I must admit, that doesn't happen as much in rural Pennsylvania as it used to in Boston.
Some of those folks could make "Merry Christmas" sound like a curse.