They are not wearing uniforms, but if you look close enough you can spot the guerrilla soldiers in the supposed "Christmas Wars" from a great distance. They are lurking in lines at retail outlets, municipal offices, and educational institutions at this very moment. Some wait for the evil "Happy Holidays" to be uttered by the person behind the desk. Others execute a sneak attack and confidently get their "Merry CHRIStmas" out before the poor souls waiting to help them even knew what hit them. Although the tactics may differ, their mission is singular: Save the baby Jesus from liberal, politically correct commies who want to destroy Christmas once and for all.
This afternoon I ran into an old acquaintance at the grocery store. It seems we run into each other about once a year, usually around Christmas. She and I were students at Truett during my first attempt to return to school a few years ago. She is now a pastor out in Crawford and things are going extremely well for both her and her family. Our interaction was brief, but I was rejuvenated by the constant gentleness that seems to always be flowing out of her. That is "Merry Christmas."
This week I have been trying to rest. I just finished a difficult semester. Stepping down from working full time has been quite a change, and I have loved my new position, even if it can be frightening at times. At the end of the semester I got to show off my adopted home town and family of rag-tags to the author of one of my favorite books and, in the process, made new friends. That week was capped off with a party of old friends that revealed the clichéd truth that we were all made to be with each other. That is “Merry Christmas.”
A couple of weeks ago after church, in my friend and pastor Josh's office, there was a crowd of people. Bennett Gamel, the new baby we had been praying for since his complicated birth a few months prior revealed that he suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, had made it to the first church service of his young, fragile life. Everyone wanted to get a peak and to hug the proud parents. In the service that day we dedicated three more babies—Aiden, Walter, and RC. The whole Sunday was one of those special once-in-a-while moments where you get a small glimpse of what that baby in a manger meant: Heaven had met Earth and somehow we were given the gift of witnessing it. For a moment Josh and I caught each other's glance and we shared a smile of recognition that needed no verbalization. That is “Merry Christmas.”
So to all of you warriors for Christmas, do us all a favor. Relax. If a cashier at a national retail chain obeys instructions that are meant to welcome people who do not celebrate Christmas and perkily wishes you a “Happy Holidays,” does this destroy Christmas? (I won’t even mention what should be obvious to everyone about the meaning of the word “Holiday…) And do you think Jesus needs a display of his birth on taxpayer funded land in order to do what he has been doing for over two thousand years, captivating the hearts of humanity and changing lives and societies?
Your obnoxious “Merry Christmas” is not a Merry Christmas at all. It is a hand grenade thrown across an imaginary battle line. That does nothing to further the message of that silent night so long ago. So if your Merry Christmas is not heartfelt, try a genuine "Happy Holidays" instead. It may do you some good.