Monday, December 9, 2013

Feel Free to Wish me "Happy Holidays!"

Every year at Christmastime I hear so many comments from people lamenting that they were greeted with "Happy Holidays" in stores.  I hear complaints from Christians when they aren't allowed to dominate December with "Merry Christmas." Because, after all, Jesus is the reason for the season, right?

I fear we are missing the mark.

Jesus should be front and center in my life in December. And every other month for that matter. But the way I see some Christians forcing the issue isn't the best way to keep the Christ in Christmas.

Jesus never told us to bully our way into culture. He never told us to boycott stores because they don't say Merry Christmas. He never said that our preference should be #1. In fact, the Bible says that we will be persecuted for having followed Him, that we should take the position of the servant, not the king.

He told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He said to be humble, be meek, be kind. He told us to make disciples (not converts!) and to live in a way that showed his love to others. He said "They will know you by your love" (John 13:35). That's how we are supposed to make a name for ourselves.

I have to be honest. I have never heard of someone falling in love with Jesus because a store told them "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." And I've never heard of someone deciding they wanted to be a Jesus follower after watching Christians demand that Christmas be front and center in our culture or complain when it isn't. When Christians consider only our own feelings and our own desire that December be about Christmas, we accidentally railroad over others, sending the message that our preference is more important than theirs. Or worse, that our preference is more important than they are.

I don't know about y'all, but I only have so much energy to use every day. I get tired (it's those dang kids!). And I'd rather use my energy telling the story of Jesus in ways that show others that they matter to him. I need it to love my neighbors and my friends, those who love Jesus and those who don't.  I'd rather use that precious energy serving others. Those are the things that help people get to know and fall in love with Jesus.

Christians, we have the honor of telling the story of Jesus' birth. We can (and should) tell it with words. We can tell our friends and loved ones about how the birth of a baby changed our entire lives. Why do we want stores to tell the story for us? I'm pretty sure I don't want Target to be in charge of telling the story of Jesus. That's my job. And I need to do it with my life. All year long.

So here's how we can keep Jesus front and center this Christmas:

Honor our friends and neighbors. Honor those who love Jesus and those who don't. Invite them to dinner or to drive around with you to look at Christmas lights. Invite them into your life so you can love them. Have a neighborhood cookie swap. Be involved in the lives of others. There's no other way to love them. Be a blessing to all who encounter you. Someone else's day should be just a tiny bit better for having their life intersect with yours. Especially during the craziness of the holidays.
Give gifts to Jesus for Christmas.  Spend less on all that stuff you normally buy.  Then take the money you have saved and use it in ways that honor Jesus: donations to organizations that save lives, buy warm gloves and hats and give them to the homeless, sponsor a well in a country that doesn't have clean water, bring a Peppermint Mocha to the man panhandling on the street or to your neighbor who doesn't get out much. We are buying less for our kids this year and giving them each $10 and a card describing various ministries that bring life and love to others all around the world. They each get to pick how they want to donate their gift. It's a great way to teach our kids how to give gifts to Jesus.
Tell the story: tell people why this is such a meaningful time of year for you. "Merry Christmas" doesn't really encompass all of that. Jesus' birth is supposed to be good news for everyone, not a slogan we champion. Don't rely on stores to tell the story for us!
Live the story: Actions speak louder than words. I'd rather that people see me serving and loving others than to hear me talking about the importance of stores saying "Merry Christmas." I can live out the story of Jesus much better than I can tell it.

So... Happy Holidays to all of you! And Merry Christmas! May this season bring you closer to the God of Peace.

PS. Just in case you think you might be being persecuted by not being told "Merry Christmas" at the stores this year, I found this helpful flow chart. ;)
from Rachel Held Evans.  Love her!