It seems that this time of year brings many confusions to light. I heard about a little kid at a Christmas parade who shouted ”Happy Halloween!” to people in the parade.
Sad, really. But an accurate depiction of our confused time. Of course, it's not really new. In 1942 Irving Berlin wrote “Happy Holidays”, which was an ad for a fictional hotel in a movie and spoke of wishes coming true. There are loads more, like “Winter Wonderland”, “Let it Snow”, "Silver Bells", and “Rockin' round the Christmas Tree”. And more recently the classic “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Ah, yes, the message of the Gift from God at its best! Most newer "seasonal" songs speak of winter--maybe of Christmas as a feeling, if at all.
Frankly, I think many only think of Christmas in terms of food, family and Santa Claus, the patron saint of consumerism. To some, the historical roots in Christianity are admitted, but there is a prevailing belief that the holiday has “matured” into a day for believer and non-believer alike. So Christ is no longer the center of the observance for many. In such minds, the Christian distinctiveness departs and it becomes just another quaint cultural religious "thing". As legitimate as Islam's Ramadan, Judaism's Hannukah,, or even the Kwanzaa celebration that was invented out of the mind of a Marxist activist in the 1960s. This leads to the mimic song "Happy RamaHanuKwanzMas", sung to the tune of "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas."
But what's not so funny is that so many think that all faiths are morally, spiritually and Eternally equivalent, and of course it's mean and intolerant to prefer Christianity to another. (Curiously, though all faiths make claims to being the "best" or "right" faith, the others seem to get a pass on being intolerant.) So, in a way, it makes sense that many (if not most) retail establishments have made the decision to direct employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas!” They're after finances, not faith. Of course, it's absurd to think that any religion tells adherents that they're all the same & it doesn't matter which you choose! And of course the idea that all gods / God are equal is not spiritual maturity. It is, in fact many steps backwards into the spiritually decayed or even childish idea of many gods. Even past pagans didn't think their gods were all equally powerful.
So before we get crabby at the confused, or those following orders, it's good to have the mind of Christ in the matter, that we should be moved to pity the lost. Yes, even those who are self-righteous & preachy in their anger at Christianity. Most just don't want to be accountable even to a loving God who's handed them a way out. The world has tried to take a Christian holy day and make it a special day — gutting it of its real meaning--while trying to keep the wonder and joy of it. Even some secular folk can see the sham of it, but don't know what to do about it. Sure, some are intolerant or just ignorant. Remember too, that Jesus' birth made people uncomfortable from the start, from the flight to Egypt, through his ministry and even beyond his Crucifixion. We shouldn't be surprised or fearful.
So yes, we should prefer & use “Merry Christmas” when met with mere “Happy Holidays” because it accurately names our celebration. Who doesn't want to share excitement? “Merry Christmas” will only regain its meaning to others if we live & speak of the reality of the new life the baby Jesus offers us. So when people say “Happy Holiday”, ask which one they observe, & tell 'em why you celebrate Christmas. First prepare with prayer how to interact. If you've a chance, move on tell them what Jesus means to you. Invite 'em to church to learn what Christmas is really about. Peace, security, forgiveness, joy--are things everybody normal wants because God planted the desires to be met by Him. Christmas offers a unique opportunity to talk of Jesus. Invite people to read the Christmas story--some are surprised that it's in the Bible--No kidding. Then let the Holy Spirit do the real work. Pastor Geoff