Happy to Hear “Happy Holidays”

Happy Holidays Wallpaper in Green by chiaralilyWe have ten kids in our family.  And since I homeschool them, they’re all home quite a bit when they’re not volunteering, working, playing sports or doing other extra-curricular activities.

With that many personalities in one house, you can well imagine then that misunderstandings, spats, kerfluffles and even arguments might occasionally occur.  And when they do, the kids know well the required “forgiveness liturgy”: take responsibility, apologize sincerely, ask for forgiveness.

Without fail, the hardest step is the middle one – apologize sincerely.  Many times have I intervened and interrupted the “forgiveness liturgy” when I hear flippant and feigned apologies.  “You have to mean it,” I remind them, encouraging them to try again.  Sincerity matters in apologies.

But not just then.

Sincerity matters in all types of speech, and that’s one reason why I’m happy to hear “Happy Holidays.”  I would much rather hear a sincere, honest “Happy Holidays” than a flippant, false or feigned “Merry Christmas.”  We’ve all been recipients (and givers) of the hands-on-the-hips-gruffly-muttered “Sorry,” and known just the opposite was meant.  Similarly, I’m hardly interested in hearing a forced “Merry Christmas” simply because someone has been guilted into saying the proper December greeting.

But that’s not the only reason I’m happy to hear “Happy Holidays.”

Think about this: What places and people are deemed most “guilty” of the unchristian “Happy Holidays” overtures and greetings?  Nine times out of ten the frustrations revolve around retail stores.  In years past when the “War on Christmas” hype was at its height, Christians were even encouraged to boycott certain retail establishments during the Christmas season for their failure to say “Merry Christmas.”

But isn’t there a huge disconnect here?  While individuals banter and berate retail stores about how they greet shoppers in December, certain their failure or refusal to say “Merry Christmas” verifies society’s demise and denial of the “Reason for the Season,” those same individuals shop, spend, and splurge their way into excess and extravagance.

Whether Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Kohl’s or any other retail store says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has little to no impact on how Christmas is celebrated.  If we’re intent on maintaining the “Reason for the Season” at Christmas, shouldn’t we first ask ourselves why we’re in so many retail stores in December in the first place?  After all, what do debt, Christmas Wish Lists, Chia pets, Santa hats and gift-giving-galore have to do with a “Merry Christmas”?

Honestly, when I’m purchasing Christmas gifts – sometimes out of genuine desire to delight, sometimes out of a guilted observance of an obligation – I’m potentially dishonoring God’s holy incarnation more than the minimum-wage-cashier who smiles and genuinely wishes me a “Happy Holidays.”  The commercialized bastion of consumerism that has replaced the reverent reflection and joyful jubilation that once characterized Christmas will never be redeemed by store employees saying “Merry Christmas.”

You see, I’m happy to hear “Happy Holidays” instead of an insincere, forced “Merry Christmas.”  I’m also happy to hear “Happy Holidays” when I myself am hardly being faithful to the “Reason for the Season” in my own retail activity.

Happy Holidays! by Christian LambertAnd one final thing, in case this sounds Grinch-ish.  Each of us must honestly reconcile for ourselves how we choose to respond to Jesus’ birth into our world and our own lives.  Perhaps that can be meaningfully done around a tree piled high with large-dollar items.  Perhaps a scaled-back version of a consumer Christmas allows your family to give generously to others.  Perhaps the greatest gift you enjoy is time spent together “unplugged” without incessant Facebook-Twitter-Email-Text-IM interruptions.

No matter what our celebrations look and sound like, may we all truly embrace the truth of this holy day (the root of holiday!).  God – the very Creator of heaven and earth, the sustainer of life, the lover of our souls, the hope of all mankind – came to us, lived among us as one of us, reached out to us, and made a way for us despite our darkness, our sin, our waywardness, our evil.

That, more than wishes of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, is the reason we can rejoice with merriment and happiness.  That is the reason for Christmas.  And that is the reason for a holy day.  Nothing that someone says or doesn’t say will ever extinguish that truth.

May you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!