When did Christmas become a bad word?

Maybe I am just more sensitive to it this year, but it seems like there was a memo telling everyone to quit using the word “Christmas” and I didn’t get it.  Of the cards I’ve received 60% have been Happy Holidays, 30% Season’s Greetings and 10% Best Wishes for the Holiday Season.  Is there some reason we don’t just state which holiday everyone is talking about?

The retail community has no issue with calling it Christmas.  There are numerous websites reminders of how many days are left until that glorious day.  But go to a school or almost any workplace and you have to speak in code.  We are having a Winter concert where we will perform musical works such as Greensleeves (What Child is This?) and then afterward we will be having a holiday party where we will be exchanging gifts.

Everyone knows what holiday everyone is talking about.  Why are we speaking in code?

I come down to 5 possible conclusions:

1. We don’t want to offend:  Clearly I am a Christian.  I am not Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or atheist or anything else.  But, what religious group has, as part of their doctrine or belief system, to take offense if someone says Merry Christmas to you?  Would I be offended by one of my Jewish friends wishing me Happy Hanukkah or a Blessed Rosh Hashanah?  Absolutely not.   I have had the opportunity to participate in a Passover celebration and found it to be an amazing and God honoring experience.  My perspectives may be different than others, but that does not remove respect.  And, not to be comical, but if an atheist was offended by Merry Christmas shouldn’t they be just as offended by Happy Holidays which lumps together all of the religious holidays in one – It’s not just Christ that they don’t believe in, it is any god, right?

2. We don’t want to proselytize:  I haven’t quite figured the argument for this one out.  I don’t think it is the public school systems role to teach curriculum about God and salvation.  But I fail to see how saying Merry Christmas is the equivalent to attempting to convert someone to a Christian faith.  When was the last time you heard someone say – “well, I was totally a non-believer, then I heard someone say Merry Christmas and, well, I knew right then I had to change my ways.”?  If the argument is that any outward sign or saying about religion particularly by a teacher can be influential to a child, then we have problems with crosses as jewelry, stars of David as jewelry, the wearing of a kippah, a hijab or a burka.  Not everyone who wears a headscarf is trying to send a message to convert you to Islam.  Not everyone who wears a cross is trying to influence you to be Christian (too many are not even Christian themselves, they just like the look).

3. Nervous Lawyers:  I think for some large companies this is where it started and then it filtered out from there.  The theory of reduced culpability.  Let’s say an employee or customer didn’t want to participate in Christmas.  The why is not a consideration – let’s just say that is the case.  Then there is a company sponsored Christmas event or a boss who wishes them Merry Christmas and now the person is feeling forced or harassed (again, don’t know why, but we won’t consider that either).  Now that person sues the company.  The company would obviously win, but there would be all that work of defense, etc.  Let’s just substitute the word “holiday” for “Christmas”.  That way we have deniability.  “Oh, you were offended because you thought I was talking about Christmas.  No, that isn’t the holiday I meant at all. Which holiday did I mean?  Which one are you not offended by?  Yes, that one.”  I know this sounds goofy, but then again, there are those “contents may be hot” warnings on coffee cups.  How this logic holds up when those same employees are instructed to sell Christmas ornaments and Christmas gifts and the store is closed Christmas day (somehow it is OK to say the word in these contexts.)

4. Satanic warfare: Watering down, redirecting, deceiving and outright attacking anything the church holds dear and is appealing to bring others into the light is a key battle area in spiritual warfare.  I believe these battles are right in our midst and there are constant attacks on the church.

5. Lacking character: Unfortunately, I think a lack of character is the main reason too many turn to Happy Holidays.  “If I say Merry Christmas then the other person will assume I’m a christian and while I do go to church, sometimes, and I would classify myself as a christian because I try really hard to be a good person, I don’t want them to see me as one of “those kind” of christians and maybe they won’t like me or think as highly of me.  I mean, between risking someone thinking negatively of me because of their views about my faith and just being totally vague and non-committal, I’ll be non-committal.”

So you probably see my position.  Saying Merry Christmas is not offending anyone.  Those two words are not some spell that magically converts people to the true christian faith and we seem very unconcerned with any other use of the word or any other outward signs of faith.  Deniability is overrated and if it was that big of a concern the President of the United States wouldn’t be involved in lighting the National Christmas Tree. (Note: that is Christmas tree, not holiday tree).

I believe spiritual warfare is happening all around us and I know there are many, many marginal believers or uncommitted people who lack character and conviction.

But here is the cool part – spiritual warfare goes both ways.  When someone wishes you Happy Holidays you can use it as a conversation starter: “well, happy holidays to you, too… which holidays do you celebrate?”  When you receive a Season’s Greetings card, you know with certainty someone who needs your prayers.  See, that is what is so cool about spiritual warfare – while Satan may be busy waving his weapons around all over the place, God always does the same thing – He aims for the heart.

And, by the way, Merry Christmas.