Maybe I'm just overly sensitive. But I think window designers, greeting card companies, and media have fallen victim to what I hope is the unintentional diminishing of December 25 for people with backgrounds similar to my own.
Have you noticed that "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" seems to have replaced "Merry Christmas" as the standard greeting for this time of year?
There are some persons and groups who crusade against anything that carries even the slightest hint of God, religion, or faith. Thus you've read about the occasional music teacher who bans "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World" in favor of "Here Comes Suzy Snowflake" or "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."
Sometimes it is the decision of a school board to ban all religious music in favor of performances that are exclusively secular. And sometimes it is the real or threatened court action of the American Civil Liberties Union that undergirds the move to ban religious songs and symbols at this season of the year.
For the most part, however, I suspect the majority of people who celebrate Christmas - and that's about 96 percent of Americans - have simply embraced the shift in terminology without thinking. And no wonder! Washington now has a "Capitol Holiday Tree" instead of what used to be the "Capitol Christmas Tree." In our rush to political correctness, we can turn ourselves inside out. In trying to be so open-minded, we can let our brains fall onto the floor.
The vast majority of us cultivate a spiritual life. Should Jews be barred from sharing the story, music, and joy of Hanukkah with their non-Jewish neighbors? Should Muslims be silenced about the meaning of Ramadan? So why should Christians be expected to re-brand Christmas as "Winter Fest"?
But it isn't the job of window designers, greeting card companies, or the media to tell the Christmas Story. That is the job of churches. It is the task of families to pass the message of the Babe of Bethlehem to our children and grandchildren. It is the responsibility of believers to keep and share faith out of the deep convictions we have. It is not our task to condemn the culture for something it was never ordained to accomplish.
I don't use Christmas to bully or to offend my non-Christian neighbor. My sense of Christian tolerance tells me to respect his alternate belief or unbelief as his right. But tolerance does not imply abandoning one's own faith and custom.
"Happy Holidays" is too bland. It falls flat for me. It misses the point of who I am and what I'm about. All that for the sake of telling you this: Merry Christmas!
Rubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville since 1978. During that time, he has also taught at David Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. He is married to the former Myra Shappley, and they are the parents of three children: Mrs. David (Michelle) Arms, Tim, and Tom. To contact Rubel or to subscribe to his newsletter, Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org