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Why “Happy Holidays” is OK

December 18th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

In a number of other articles I have tried to make plain the notion that the United States is or ever was or was even intended to be a “Christian” nation is simply a historical fallacy. Without having to rehash the whole thing (I can refer you to other resources, just email me) and without resorting to cherry picking quotes from various founders, we have to look no further than the First Amendment to the Constitution to realize that the United States cannot favor one religion – or no religion – over another. And this has been well established legally.

Yet every year we hear stories about the so-called “war on Christmas” where supposedly the godless heathens are trying to do away with any public expression of Christianity, in this case by insisting that we wish each other “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And so we see the spectacle of a number of devout Christians expressing their joy in the season by being downright cranky toward their neighbors. And I suppose somehow that glorifies the name of Christ.

The reality is that the United States is a secular society. It resembles in many ways the society into which Christ was born. There are now as there were then a number of different worldviews in the marketplace of ideas. It seems remarkable to me that a man of devout convictions, who indeed could not have been more Jewish, was able to remain true to his beliefs and still draw people from all backgrounds to himself without alienating those whose ideas were foreign to him. In fact the only group that Jesus consistently antagonized were the leaders of his own religion who were, ironically, alienating just about everybody else. And he did so for that reason.

As ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), it would seem to me more in keeping with his mission if we were to emulate what he did, rather than what his opponents did. And that is that we are called to recognize that not all of our neighbors are Christian, but that they deserve our love and respect anyway. In fact, that is our primary mission as Christians.

It does not endear us to our non-Christian neighbors when we insist that they acknowledge and accept Christian practices and beliefs. There are many places in the world where that type of behavior is met with fatal opposition. What we are called to do is to demonstrate our devotion to him by the way we live our lives and by the way we respond to our neighbors, all of our neighbors.

Henri Nouwen wrote about an approach to evangelism that he encapsulated in the term “hospitality.” Nouwen wrote that hospitality was “the creation of a free and friendly space where we can reach out to strangers and invite them to become our friends.”[1] And so that is what I would like us to consider in this season where our whole culture, Christian and non-Christian, celebrates.

To my Christian friends I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a meaningful remembrance of the joy the coming of our savior brings. And to my non-Christian friends I would like to wish you all the joy you can find in whatever way you can find it, and to let you know that I love you. Happy holidays.



[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Garden City, N.Y.: Image, 1986), 79.


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