“Merry Christmas!"

There, I said it, and nuts to you if you aren't celebrating Christ's birth today.

Okay, I don't really mean that. I think it is wonderful that we live in a time and, for those of us fortunate enough to be the beneficiaries of the Enlightenment skepticism about state-mandated religion, a place that allows us to celebrate or not. I really wouldn't want someone to be wishing me "Happy Hanukkah!" if I weren't celebrating it. It would seem wrong, presumptuous, perhaps, yes, even a little aggressive, as if to suggest that I should be celebrating something that I didn't believe in. And yet, my heart sinks just a little bit every time I moderate my desire to say, "Merry Christmas!," with "Happy Holidays!" or "Have a good break!" or an uncomfortable, confused smile instead.

Here's what I want to say: "Isn't it wonderful that God, the Author of existence, the Creator of everything that is, visible and invisible, by means that are too mysterious for us to fathom, entered into the very thing He had created as one of His own creatures, to live and die among them so as to bring them everlasting life in His presence? Wow! Can you believe how much He must love us to so subject Himself to our frailties in this way? And, yes, I know that it is possible that we are wrong about this story, but even so, can you imagine a better one? I can't. I really can't. Perhaps there is no God, but how then do we account for the great love that we feel radiating through the universe for us? No wonder it is so hard for us to have faith. What proof do we have of God's existence other than our ability to sense this love? And how else would we come to know and understand God unless He revealed Himself to us in a way that we could actually comprehend? After all, we're talking the Creator here: can the characters in a book imagine their author unless the author writes himself or herself into the story? Would the characters believe it if he or she did? Well, this is what we are celebrating today: God has entered the story and, from here on out, the only possible ending is a happy one."

It would be churlish of me--would it not?--to want to keep this good news to myself. And yet, to be polite in our post-Enlightenment, skeptical society, this is what I am required to do. Heaven forbid that I impose the news of God's love on anybody, force him or her to believe something that his or her tradition does not accept. Would I really feel offended if someone wished me, "Happy Krishna Janmashtami!," or, "Happy Vesak!"? I don't think so, although, to date, nobody has. But wouldn't I feel even worse if I were in a place where everyone was celebrating Krishna's or Buddha's birthday and nobody included me in his or her good wishes, whether or not I was celebrating the festival myself? It is, to say the least, odd to live in a culture that for a good twelfth of the year gives itself over visually, aurally and, of course, financially to the celebration of a feast that many of us are embarrassed to acknowledge as even happening when we talk with one another. I've noticed this embarrassment especially this year, on occasions when I have happened to see members of my own church outside of a worship service. I should know that they, of all people, are celebrating this feast, shouldn't I? And yet, I found myself stunned to realize, even as they passed around the napkins with the pictures of a Christmas tree, that I could wish them a Merry Christmas without anyone (potentially) taking offense. Surely this is taking politeness too far.

So, stuff politeness. God loves us and today is the day on which we celebrate His love. Joy to the world! Merry Christmas!


  1. Thank you for provoking thought, as usual, Bear. Response posted at http://badgerosity.blogspot.com/2009/12/seasons-greetings.html

  2. And for the scientists among us not observing Christmas today: Christmas Plans.


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