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Dealing with the war on Christmas

Did you know that there’s a war on Christmas going on? That’s what people are saying.

To listen to some folks the devil has turned loose his demons to tempt people to say “Happy Holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” And these demons are allegedly persecuting those who do say “Merry Christmas.”

Before I go any farther, please know that I love Christmas and am a follower of Jesus Christ ̶ a flawed follower, but sincere.

In more than 70 years of Christmases I have never been criticized, chastised or castigated for saying “Merry Christmas.” I say it a lot and to all sorts of people including people who do not necessarily share my beliefs. To say “Merry Christmas” is to offer a warm holiday greeting, not an attempt at proselytization.

To illustrate my point: one of my most meaningful Christmas gifts came from a Jewish friend, Sam. My wife, children and I visited his retail store in Sioux City on an evening shortly before Christmas. We were the last customers in the store at closing time.

After ringing up the purchase, Sam handed me a gift bag. “We may be of different faiths,” Sam explained as he handed me the gift, “but this is a special time of year for both of us and I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.”

Inside the gift bag was a bottle of Concord wine imported from Israel. I was thrilled with the gift ̶ not because of the wine but because of the spirit in which it was given.

So it is with holiday greetings. If I wish you “Merry Christmas” I am wishing you all the love and kindness of the season. If you wish me “Happy Holidays” I am not offended.

Businesses that serve a wide segment of the population, including non-Christians, may want employees to use the “Happy Holidays” greeting. Not a problem. It takes nothing away from Christmas.

If you greet me with “Happy Hanukkah,” I will return the courtesy. I don’t observe Hanukkah, but I understand its significance to my Jewish friends. Responding with a “Happy Hanukkah” greeting takes away nothing from my own religious beliefs.

If you think about it, Christians are a privileged class. No other faith gets a federal holiday for a religious observance. But for some people, that just isn’t enough.

Jesus told Peter “upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” If the powers of hell won’t overcome the church, I doubt that a “Happy Holidays” greeting will harm it.

Thinking even deeper on the subject, nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to observe Jesus’ birthday. In fact, no one knows the exact day on when he was born.

Our observance of Christmas ̶ no matter how wonderful or how spiritual ̶ is extra-Biblical and much of it has roots in pagan practices.

Caroling, for instance, goes back to pre-Christian fertility rites where, according to learnreligions.com, “villagers traveled through their fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.” Caroling, in fact, wasn’t done in churches until the 13th century.

Caroling is just one of many Christmas traditions that grew out of pagan celebrations adopted by Christians over the centuries. My singing is so awful I don’t get invited to go caroling but if I could sing I would sing Christmas carols.

There are so many good and wonderful things about Christmas, it would be a shame if we allowed the fact some of our Christmas traditions are rooted in paganism to spoil our joy. These traditions are valid today because we observe them in honor of Christ’s birth.

Likewise, it is a shame to get our panties (or boxers) twisted in knots just because someone greets us in a manner different from our own preference.

It’s the Christmas season ̶ a time when we celebrate the most wonderful gift ever given to humankind. Let’s keep our observance of Christmas in line with the heart of the one whose birth we celebrate.

Truce declared!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! And, to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukah!

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