Friday, December 4, 2009

Merry This . . . Happy That . . . Um, This May Sting A Bit

I am a born-again Christian.

I believe that God became human, coming to us in the form of a baby named Jesus and would go on to suffer and die on the cross as payment for the sins of all man/womankind. I believe He rose again from the grave, thus conquering death, and that all can know Him personally during life here on Earth before joining Him in eternal glory.

I'm not interested in debating this. So don't start.

I believe it. I experience Him daily. I hear Him. I see Him. I have watched Him change the hearts of people, mine included. I have a unique ability to see His handiwork in the seemingly small stuff that I encounter in both my daily life, and in the lives of others. He has fashioned me this way. Where others see despair, I see hope - even when life is bleak. Yes, I experience darkness like any other human, and yet there is a wellspring of hope that floods my soul.

That Hope is Jesus.

Ok, now that I've shared this testimony, let me get right to it.

(Deep breath)

I find this whole debate over whether one should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" pointless and a complete waste of time. And, to go one step further, I believe it's just one more thing that widens the chasm and hinders our conversations with non-believers.

"But, but . . . ", you say. Just relax. Don't hurt yourself.

Obviously, I celebrate Christmas, and in doing so wish others a "Merry Christmas", for I hold in my heart the conviction that Christ is real, and in my head, the knowledge that I have both the freedom of speech and the freedom to worship.

And yet, I can not ignore my childhood years which were spent in a culturally diverse area and my 18 years in Chicago, surrounded by those who come from a variety of different faith backgrounds. I am thus accustomed, for instance, to wishing my Jewish friends "Happy Hanukkah". They, in turn, have always wished me a "Merry Christmas". In my relationships there has always been a mutual respect for one's personal faith.

I have often found dialoguing with those of different faiths to come, well, easy, having shared my faith with Jews, and Buddhists, and Mormons, through simple conversation, rather than by means of a one sided monologue where I do all the talking outlining why I worship Jesus.

Ping pong. Tennis. Back and forth. It's called discussion.

See, in our country, as opposed to others, we have the freedom to worship any way we choose.

While I happen to believe that Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life, others, do not. Thankfully, they live here, in the United States, where they have the freedom to worship - just as I do. Do I want them to know the love and forgiveness of Jesus? Of course! Do I believe that all streams lead to the big ocean - or whatever that saying is? Nope. See, I really do believe that Jesus is the answer. I do.

And yet, I could care less whether a clerk at a store wishes me "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" while I'm shopping. Look at me. Closely. How would one even know whether I celebrate Christmas just by looking at me? Honestly, based on looks alone, they'd be more apt to wish me "Happy Hanukkah." Oh yeah, I can pass. And that's from the mouths of my Jewish friends.

And secondly, why would I even expect a secular organization, like that of a corporation, to be committed to furthering the cause of Christ?

For that matter, why would I expect the choreography on the American Music Awards to be wholesome? Why should I be shocked by Adam Lambert? For what was he doing that was so contrary to what the "world" considers "entertainment."

I think we expect too much from the "world" - and when they don't comply with our beliefs, we stand in judgement. We stand in judgement over those who don't posses the power of the Holy Spirit to even assist them in making choices that would glorify God. We stand in judgement over those who don't even profess to know Jesus.

Sorry. That's not our job. That position has already been filled.


Instead, we threaten to boycott stores - stores whose ultimate purpose has absolutely nothing to do with expanding God's kingdom in the first place, but rather whose goal it is to make a profit. Why boycott just because the check-out person has been told not to wish you a "Merry Christmas"?

I don't remember Jesus boycotting dining with tax collectors, ignoring women of ill-repute, or moving to the other side of the road so as not to bump into lepers. He went where we are afraid to go.

(No, no, no . . . I'm not calling businesses crooks, (some are) adulterer's, (some are) or diseased (some are). I AM saying that Jesus didn't run from tough conversations.)

I propose that we are simply afraid to enter into a natural dialogue with those of different faiths, and those who may hold a different opinion regarding the season, and instead, hide behind our catchy slogans and phrases.

If it is so important to "Keep Christ in CHRISTmas", or if "Jesus is the reason for the season", how about upon being wished a "Happy Holiday" we resist the urge to pull a John Wayne, quickly drawing the "Merry Christmas" from the spiritual holster and firing it off in defense, and instead, actually engage that person in a simple exchange.

"Thank you. I celebrate Christmas. How about you?"

I'm sorry to tell you that the words "Merry Christmas" do not hold some sort of special evangelistic power. But by initiating true conversations with others, (albeit brief at times) rather than throwing out our scripted answers (sweetly, of course) and walking away with our purchases, we have actually offered more than the statement "Merry Christmas" could ever supply.

As we move away from trying to prove a point, and move into sharing a real moment with another human being, there is the possibility of leaving a lasting impression that will far exceed the month of December.

They will know we are Christians by our love, not whether we wish someone a "Merry Christmas".

Don't' get so bent out of shape.

You're going to pull something.


Leslie said...

Thank you!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well put Joline. I will not state my beliefs here, though slightly different from yours. I can't see how this should spark any sort of animosity. There's only one way to effectively spread acceptance(and maybe even belief) of your faith- through example of love and caring. Merry Christmas. <3

Debbie said...

Well said and excellent points. "Thank you. I celebrate Christmas. How about you?" I'm stealing that and sharing with others.

Anonymous said...

I thought your blog was thought provoking - which I appreciate during the rush of the season. I am glad I read it. Now I am really considering the remarks we say to each other. I agree with Debbie - "Thank you. I celebrate Christmas. How about you?" was one of the biggest things I am taking from your writings. Thanks Joline. EL