Check that. This one’s definitely going to get me in trouble with some of my friends.
Here goes nothing: I’m just now getting to where I like being wished “Merry Christmas” at retail outlets again. For quite a while, I hated it with a passion.
(I’ll wait while you go through proper channels to have my salvation revoked.)
Up until a few years ago, I liked it very much. Because when the Target cashier wished me a “Merry Christmas”, she was actually saying — wait for it — “Merry Christmas”. But that’s no longer the case. Now, when she says, “Merry Christmas”, what’s she’s really saying is:
I am now going to present you with a greeting that is appropriate to the current season. You and I both know that I would ordinarily say “Merry Christmas” to you of my own volition. But a few years ago, when my employer thought it prudent to somewhat genericize the greeting, I chose to maintain my employment and go along with this decision. But then, “Christians” decided that this was not right and refused to shop at our store until the Orthodox Jew working the next register said “Merry Christmas” to her Muslim customer. So my employer changed his decision, recognizing that a full-on boycott by a large base who claimed to be offended by the lack of a Christmas greeting was a bigger problem than the occasional person who might actually be offended by its presence. Therefore, Merry Christmas. (Sigh)
How soul-sucking is that? Yet this is the society in which we now live.
Sidebar: Christian radio DJ Brant Hansen recently tweeted: “What’s Christian about taking offense? Still trying to figure that out.”
Now I’ve heard a lot of arguments from the culture warriors who brought us this mess, and — to be honest — this post was originally going to be a fisking of each and every one of those arguments. But then I realized that it was more important to try to show what’s right than to show how others are wrong. Granted, I’ll be addressing and/or alluding to some of the arguments, but hopefully more in a manner of “behold, I show you a more excellent way.”
DEMANDING TO HEAR “MERRY CHRISTMAS” IS ILLOGICAL
In a great article from 2009 about some of the culture-warrior tactics, Zach Nielsen wrote, “What does retail have to do with the essence of Christmas anyway?” The answer is obvious — not a blessed thing. The much-beloved Charlie Brown Christmas special addressed this issue in 1965, so Zach’s revelation is nothing new — heck, it’s even older than I am.
Let’s drill down a bit further on this one. By demanding to hear “Merry Christmas”, we are encouraging the retail employee to further blur the line that we should be trying to draw very clearly. And if that cashier is not a Christian, we are encouraging her to espouse something in which she does not truly believe. It has even been suggested (though this may be a tad over the top) that we are demanding that she violate the third commandment.
But let’s assume that that last suggestion is a bit too strong. I still have to ask, though — what is it with Christians getting their panties in a wad when unbelievers act like (gasp) unbelievers? Hansen recently stated that he was not offended by Saturday Night Live’s recent skit that poked fun at Tim Tebow’s faith because he “wouldn’t expect SNL’s writers to ‘get’ Jesus. Or Tebow.” Sadly, Brant is probably in the minority.
Are you a Christian? Do you always act the way you ought to act? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And you’re supposed to know better.
DEMANDING TO HEAR “MERRY CHRISTMAS” IS A LOUSY WITNESS
Nielsen’s article is primarily about a web site launched by an arm of Focus on the Family that allowed shoppers to rate a store’s “Christmas friendliness”, post comments, and notify retailers directly of said ratings. Nielsen notes:
Let’s say that the CEO of Best Buy somehow stumbles upon this website and he happens to be a hard-core Christian skeptic. Do you think that this kind of a website is a helpful Christian witness for him?
He then goes on to say, “I doubt it.” Now Zach is a pretty smart cookie, so I’m going to assume that the reason that he phrased it that way was tongue-in-cheek, because the absolute certainty of a response like “not in a million years” just didn’t carry enough gravity.
In an article from 2010 (which she recently re-posted), Rachel Held Evans posits that what we’re really seeing is Christians acting with an entitlement mentality:
I’m not sure when or why it happened, but in some circles, entitlement has been declared December’s Christian virtue. Suddenly it’s not enough that Americans spend millions of dollars each year marking the birth of Jesus. Now we’ve got to have a “Merry Christmas” banner in front of every parade and an inflatable manger scene outside of every courthouse … or else we’ll make a big stink about it in the name of Jesus.
Here we are, all of Christendom, laying on the floor of Walmart, kicking and screaming like a petulant 6-year-old whose parents won’t buy him a new XBOX 360. And the unbelieving world says, “Yeah, that’s how I want to be. Where do I sign up?”
For some reason, the phrase “two-fold the child of hell” keeps running through my mind.
DEMANDING TO HEAR “MERRY CHRISTMAS” IS EXTREMELY UNGRATEFUL
I’ve got nothing to say on this that isn’t better stated in this quote from Evans’ article:
Having opened the gift of the incarnation—of God with us—we’ve peered inside and shrieked, “This is not enough! Where are the accessories? We want more!”
DEMANDING TO HEAR “MERRY CHRISTMAS” SHOWS A VERY LOW VIEW OF GOD
But, but, but they’re taking “Christ” out of “Christmas”.
Um, no, they’re not. Because they can’t. Because they’re humans. And He’s God.
If you’re worried about some puny humans taking something away from God, I really have to ask what kind of Divine Wuss you’re following.
OK, SO WHY “ALMOST”? (from post title)
As I confessed early in this post, for a while there, I hated hearing “Merry Christmas” at the retail store. But then I realized that I was empowering the culture warriors to steal my joy in the same way that the culture warriors are empowering the retailers to steal their joy.
Several years ago, I heard Bryan Duncan in concert in support of his “Christmas Is Jesus” album. He encouraged Christians to enjoy all the trappings of Christmas (ringing bells, shiny lights, Elvis singing “Blue Christmas”) because there was nothing that man could ever do to diminish what God has done in giving us His Son.
That’s a lesson for Donald Wildmon and for me.