The holidays– oops, sorry … Christmastime is here

It must be getting close to Christmas: The strains of Liberty Counsel griping about alleged anti-Christmas bias in cultural and commercial venues through the use of “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” can be heard. The Christian legal organization has posted its annual “Naughty & Nice List,” with the added phrase “Friend or Foe 2009.” 

We’re going to draw a line in the sand over a holiday greeting?

This complaining started a few years back when LC’s Mat Staver and several other  Christian cultural watchdogs determined that merely wishing people “Happy holidays” in December was an affront to those who celebrate Christmas.

Now, as a messianic believer in Jesus, I don’t celebrate Christmas, for reasons which I hope to get into in another post this year. I suppose that would put me in the “Foe” category. Technically, though, I wouldn’t even make it to the “Naughty” side of the list, because I don’t wish anybody “Happy holidays” either, figuring it would be hypocritical. I don’t think it’s right for Christians to celebrate Christmas, so why would I wish them “Happy holidays”?

All that taken into consideration, though, I have never understood what was so offensive about “Happy holidays.”

When I was growing up, back in the 1960s and ’70s, the expression was very common and made sense. To me, it always was shorthand for “Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.” Later on, when I learned about Hanukkah, I figured it also incorporated that in a happy pappy multicultural way. (A few years ago, “Happy holidays” hit the jackpot when Ramadan and the holidays following the Islamic fast also fell in December.)

Watch TV during that time period, expecially close to the Dec. 25-Jan. 1 axis, and “Happy Holidays” was a common message during station-break voiceovers and could usually be seen superimposed over screens that showed football or basketball game scores.

And there was the song “Happy Holiday” (even more insulting since it uses the singular and doesn’t even try to hide it’s about Christmas?), made popular by Andy Williams (sung below by the Williams Brothers and Osmond Brothers, including a very young Donnie Osmond):

When that song was all over the airwaves (and it may be still, though not on the airwaves I frequent), and when the expression was all over TV and even uttered by ardent practitioners of Christmas, I never heard a single protest.

Now, all of a sudden, it’s a war, according to Staver in this news release.

The war against Christmas is nothing new. Repressive forces have always had the same goal – to first secularize and then to eliminate Christmas.

Actually, the secularization of Christmas has been going on for quite some time in America, where it has happily co-existed with the religious celebration of Christmas (another sign that Christmas may not be a good holiday for Christians to celebrate, but that’s a topic for that other post).

But in his statement, Staver equates clerks at Banana Republic saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” with Communist/Marxist secularization of the holiday as a way to oppress Christianity.

Huh. Funny. Here I thought it was free speech. And, in fact, an exercise of the free market. Maybe these businesses are trying to include everyone, Jewish, Christian or whatever, so as not to offend anyone and hurt their business. Maybe they figure if they say “Merry Christmas” to everyone, they’ll offend someone and lose business. I’d love to see what Staver would have to say about Wal-Mart employees saying, during Dec. 11-19 of this year, “Happy Hanukkah” to all their customers instead of “Merry Christmas.” Or what about businesses that wish people a “Happy Passover” during the Easter season? How about “Happy New Year” at Rosh Hashanah?

And what about the fact that just about every business in the country, not to mention the entire government, shuts down on Christmas Day, and sometimes on Christmas Eve? Is that not enough of an acknowledgment of Christmas? Does Staver want to control every facet of how they conduct their business?

Actually, now that I think about it, “holiday” means “holy day,” doesn’t it? So people wishing others “Happy holidays” are actually wishing them “Happy holy days,” which in a way is a complete capitulation to the claim that Christmas is a holy day. So taking Liberty Counsel’s approach actually could be considered counterproductive.

Ultimately, the whole “Happy holiday” to-do comes across to me as another excuse for American Christians to gripe about something, in this case, something not really all that important. No, I’m not saying the incarnation of Christ is not important; I tend to focus on it during the Feast of Tabernacles, which is about God dwelling with man. I’m saying a manufactured holiday isn’t all that important. And, even if it you have given it a high importance in good faith, choosing to get bent out of shape by something like “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to the extent of creating an enemies list like Staver has done is a huge overreaction. Especially when you consider such challenges as a 75 percent departure rate of young people from the Christian faith, an average of 3,500 abortions performed daily, and believers imprisoned around the world for their faith.

I’m not saying that we don’t live in a society or culture or even nation hostile to the Gospel. We do. There are many things to be concerned about in this country due to its departure from godly laws and behavior. The United States and Western civilization as a whole is going down the crapper.

Instead of addressing these issues, though, many U.S. Christians have chosen to don the victim robe–which they are usually quick to criticize others for doing. It must be an equality thing: We want to feel slighted like everyone else does.

One problem, though. God has called Christians to not be like everyone else (Lev. 20:7, 1 Peter 1:14-15). He has called us to be “separate,” or holy.

So, happy holy days.

Um, biblically speaking, that is.