I recently read or heard from colleagues about these issues:
• Employers instructing their employees to say "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas to avoid offending people.
• A church which changed its Christmas program to a "holiday" program for the same reason.
• Hard economic times are causing people to decide not to give Christmas presents to friends.
• A Long Island Walmart employee is trampled to death and police and first responders are unable to get to him as the crowd concentrates on rushing for their bargains.
If Christmas isn't about a time to celebrate the birth of a savior-- Who is the only way we have out of an eternity in hell and the only way to heaven -- and an opportunity to tell other folks about that, then I'm not sure what it is.
Will folks really be offended by someone being friendly and wishing them a Merry Christmas? Then I feel sad for them because their focus obviously is on themselves and their requirement that everyone else go about their day tiptoeing around making sure everything that is said and done will meet with their approval. I would not be offended if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I don't celebrate that holiday, but I would feel glad that someone wished me the happiness of their season and wanted to include me in it. I would not feel the need to go into a lecture about how I'm a Christian and how offensive it is to me that they not keep that in mind when speaking to me....
If a church is afraid to have a "Christmas" program for fear of offending, I have to wonder if they have watered down the message that's preached each week as well. When you start worrying about how many people are coming to church, or whether God's word will offend people, you're not really acting as a church where a group of people gathers to worship, fellowship and serve the Lord. You're a social club where people come to feel good about themselves, gather with others who make them feel good about themselves and serve themselves.
Is Christmas all about gifts? If you're really feeling the pinch economically and can't afford to purchase a gift, does that preclude you from giving gifts that don't have to be bought? How about offering to babysit for a friend so she can go shopping by herself or enjoy a night out with her husband? How about writing a personal note that tells your friends how much they mean to you? How about gathering some photos and putting them together in a scrapbook or box of treasured memories? If Christmas gifts are all about "things" and not about an expression of love, then they're not worth giving. Was a man's life really worth a stampede to save 50 percent off a gift for someone?
We're losing touch with the meaning of the holiday. It's all about Jesus and God's amazing gift. Find ways to make that known this season.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."(Luke 2: 8-20 NIV)
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.