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Merry Christmas?

Merry Christmas?

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Category: Leading in Hope
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way ... (1 Peter 3:13-16 NIV).

I hope I'm not being overly sensitive. But I think window designers, greeting card companies, and media have fallen victim to what I hope is the unintentional diminishing of December 25 for people with backgrounds similar to my own.

Have you noticed that "Happy Holidays" seems to have replaced "Merry Christmas" as the standard greeting for this time of year?

There are some persons and groups who crusade against anything that carries even the slightest hint of God, religion, or faith. Thus you've read about the occasional music teacher who bans "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World" in favor of "Here Comes Suzy Snowflake" or "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

Sometimes it is the decision of a school board to ban all religious music in favor of performances that are exclusively secular. And sometimes it is the real or threatened court action of the American Civil Liberties Union that undergirds the move to ban religious songs and symbols at this season of the year.

For the most part, however, I suspect the majority of people who celebrate Christmas – and that's about 96 percent of Americans – have simply embraced the shift in terminology without thinking. And no wonder! Washington now has a "Capitol Holiday Tree" instead of what used to be the "Capitol Christmas Tree." In our rush to political correctness, we can turn ourselves inside out. In trying to be so open-minded, we can let our brains roll out onto the floor.

The vast majority of us cultivate a spiritual life. Should Jews be barred from sharing the story, music, and joy of Hanukkah with their non-Jewish neighbors? Should Muslims be silenced about the meaning of Ramadan? So why should Christians be expected to re-brand Christmas as "Winter Fest"?

And it isn't only Christmas that gets voided in our culture. Maryland, for example, defended its Thanksgiving curriculum recently by explaining that holiday "from a purely historical perspective" and omitting all references to God and religion. The truth is, of course, that one cannot teach the historical facts about Thanksgiving and omit the Pilgrims' faith in and gratitude to God.

I don't use Christmas to bully or to offend my non-Christian neighbor. And my sense of Christian tolerance tells me to respect his alternate belief or unbelief as his right. But tolerance does not imply abandoning one's own faith and custom. "Happy Holidays" is too bland. It falls flat for me. It misses the point of who I am and what I'm about. All that for the sake of telling you this: Merry Christmas!

About the Author

Rubel Shelly
Rubel Shelly preached for the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville for thirty years. He is the author of more than 20 books. He has accepted the position of President of Rochester College. For more details, click here or email Rubel.

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