I have been pondering again, this time about Christmas and the Holiday Season that is upon us once again. As the celebrations begin to get going there seems to be push back from those of my own Christian tradition who feel Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus is somehow under attack. I hear of those who find offense at using the greeting Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. Others who share the news that Christ has been taken out of the season and that a large number of people, in fact some would say society in general takes offense at Merry Christmas so we have been forced to say Happy Holidays instead. So here are my ponderings on the topic.
I do understand that there are and have been incidents where someone has somehow taken offense at the greeting Merry Christmas, especially if they are not Christian. I also recognize the celebration of Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus and his birth and would not want to detract from that at all. I agree that in a large sense society in general has moved the celebration into way too much commercialism and materialism and that causes my heart to hurt, especially in these difficult economic times.
However, as I journey in my corner of the world I just do not see Christmas under attack. As TruDee and I shop here in the city I hear Christmas songs both secular and traditional Christmas hymns being played on stores, Merry Christmas shared by store staff and on signs in the windows. Listening to the local radio stations playing songs of the season such as O Holy Night, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, and Hark the Mary Did You Know, seems more than common in my world. We drove through a public park the other evening to see Christmas Light display and one of the first displays was a beautiful lighted Nativity Scene and I have yet to meet anyone who has said to me they find Merry Christmas offensive.
Now, don’t get me wrong I know there have been lawsuits and controversies about placing religious symbols on government property. I agree with the constitutional mandate of seperation of church and state and the non-establishment clause. So, in general I think we should keep religious icons, images, symbols out of our government. And at the same time I really have no problem placing religious symbols on government property as long as we are willing to be inclusive and include other religions other than just Christianity, we are a country grounded in freedom of religion and should not be exclusive in the practice. It is when we narrow that foundation to “freedom of Christianity” or any other religion at the exclusion of another that should cause alarm.
I guess it seems to me those who find such offense at Happy Holidays are not really concerned about taking Christ out of Christmas but rather an inability to share the season. Christmas and celebrating the birth of the Christ Child is not the only celebration going on in the months from November through January. There are Christian, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, African American, Sikh, Holy Days and Celebrations happening throughout our country and the world. I guess for me, I think as a country as diverse as ours, founded on freedom of religion, we would celebrate the gifts and joys all of these celebrations bring to each one of us. Sharing Happy Holidays with my Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist friends is one of the freedoms this great country of ours provides me and I am more than willing to share the Holiday Season with them, after all the roots of the word Holiday simply mean Holy Day, and their Holy Days are just as important to them as my Holy Days are to me.
And so I will close out my ponderings and wish all of us the Happiest of Holidays, whether you find that in Merry Christmas, Ashura, Bodhi Day, Diwali, or the Birthday of Baha’u’llah, isn’t it wonderful to live in a place we are all free to celebrate. I find challenge in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words as I finish this pondering, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” I pray we find such brotherhood/sisterhood/human-hood soon, may it be so. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.