Top 10 Reasons Christians Should Stop Whining About Secular Xmas

“Keep Christ in Christmas!” “Jesus is the reason for the season!” “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas!”

I don’t disagree with any of these statements. However, as a PR rep for Jesus, I cringe whenever I see them printed on a sign somewhere. I know we all lament the commercialization of a sacred day; I know that it’s frustrating to see something so meaningful reduced to plastic snowmen and frozen fruitcakes. That said, it’s not worth getting all offended by a ‘season’s greetings’ card, or a ‘winter holiday celebration’ at your kids’ school or your workplace. Here’s why we should stop demanding “our holiday” back:

1-’Season’s greetings,” refers to that broad expanse of time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Muliple holidays=holiday season. It’s nothing against Jesus, really.

2-Also, Christians are not the only people of faith who celebrate a high holy day around the winter solstice. Christianity is a global faith with a regrettable lack of global awareness. “Happy Holidays” is a simple means of acknowledging that some of our neighbors–even some of our friends and relatives–are also in the midst of living their faith. And let’s face it: the “this is mine” attitude surrounding December 25 feels less like Christmas cheer, and more like Black Friday hoarding. Just sayin…

3-Xmas is not a dirty word. In fact, “X” is the Greek letter, Chi–which, in the olden days, was often used as a literary symbol for Christ. So, there you go.

4-Jesus never went around saying “Merry Me-Smas.” While I’m sure he’d appreciate all the to-do around his birthday, he was a pretty humble guy. I think he’d blush and say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” And you know…when i hear ‘keep Christ in Christmas,” what it sounds like to me is keeping for ourselves. Not the best celebration of God’s love incarnate.

5-Do you really want the public school system to be responsible for your child’s faith formation? No? i didn’t think so. However…when we insist that public schools–funded by state and local tax dollars–speak the language of faith, it is kind of the same thing. (I have similar boundary issues with posting of 10 Commandments and school prayer…post for another day!) Let’s just say, while i think many public school teachers model wonderful values and moral behavior, and many are model Christians, I’d much rather my kids learn to read and do math at school, and get their language of faith from my family and the church of my choosing.

6-We might often feel that the secularization of our favorite holiday has deprived it of all meaning. But on the contrary, Christmas is the time when many who would qualify themselves as ‘non-believers,’ feel a stirring of the spirit that leads them seeking. If we are truly disciples of Jesus, we should celebrate any element of the season that urges people toward the holy.  It may start with the mall or the Hallmark channel, but it often lands them in church. I’ll take it.

7. Speaking of shopping–if you are bothered by all the secular expressions posted around malls and big box stores this season, might i gently suggest that you spend less of your Christmas season at the freakin mall? If you don’t like the signage, spend more time serving the poor, going to worship, getting out in nature, and spending time with the people you love. I’m pretty sure the birthday boy would be all for it.

8. Life is too short to worry so much about what everyone else is saying and doing. Apply this to other areas of life and civilized culture, as well.

9. When you get right down to it, the best way to “keep Christ in Christmas” is to model Christlike behavior. Jesus was for feeding people. Jesus was for healing and compassion. Jesus was for getting a bunch of loud, messy, mismatched people around a table and having a big dinner. Not a moment of his life did he spend trying to get his name up on a sign.

10. And speaking of signs…too many words and too much clutter makes for really tacky seasonal decor. Martha would not be pleased with a ‘keep christ in christmas!’ up in lights on your front lawn.

Any way you shake it, simple is best; and joy comes in much smaller packages than we’ve come to expect.

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://www.lynnungar.com Lynn Ungar

    Love it start to finish! Might I add my own personal pet peeve? I detest “Jesus is the reason for the season.” The season is winter. The reason for the season is that the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. Various holidays take place during the season, only some of which have anything to do with Jesus. OK, done ranting now.

    • http://www.irreverin.com irreverins

      haha. too true, lynn. too true.

    • LadyOpah

      Haha I doubt anyone has ever used that phrase to refer to the literal season of winter rather than Christmas! But maybe I’ve misunderstood it all this time?

      Although if you believe what the Bible says about Jesus then you believe that he is in fact the reason for not only every season, but all things anyways: Colossians 1:16b-17 says (speaking of Jesus), “all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

      But I do agree that Jesus never commanded us to crusade to keep his literal name at holidays but rather to “make disciples of all nations” and putting signs up in our yards is not the way the Bible encourages us to go about this (nor is it the most effective way! Haha).

    • Elizabeth

      Axial tilt is the reason for the season!

  • Don Long

    I couldn’t agree more. Well thought out and reasoned Erin.

  • Bill

    Okay. I wrote my comments in the wrong blog. I was wanting to address this blog entry.

    Thank you so much for sharing how right wing Christians need to quit their sniveling and snarling about Christmas in society.

    Some of your comments are one I have privately expressed. Others were new ways to express how one needs to quit complaining and start living out in Spirit of Advent. A time for personal and societal transformation.

    Blessings in all you.

  • http://endtimestavern.com George L. Duncan

    This was hilarious. Thanks! I linked to it on my blog http://www.endtimestavern. Merry Christmas!

  • jeff snider

    Well said, Rev Erin! I was having this discussion with a friend of mine just this morning – wish I had seen your post before the discussion, you were much more eloquent in expressing what I was thinking than I! The willful exclusion (and derision even) of other faith’s holidays and traditions seems so very un-Christian to me. I just can’t see Christianity as being a zero-sum game.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  • http://www.justlivingfarm.org/ Dave

    Wonderful, Insightful, comical, and easy to hear!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/amber.degrace Amber Roth DeGrace

    Love this!

  • http://Www.SacredDisbelief.com Thomas King

    Well said: “Christianity is a global faith with a regrettable lack of global awareness.” Don’t the people of the various faiths have enough to do without fighting over December? Peace!

  • http://Ais4Austin.com Lindsay Shugerman

    Amen!

  • Cynthia

    Maybe christians should stop celebrating christmas altogether and celebrate the Lord’s feasts and festivals. Christmas is a pagan holiday!

    • Jen

      I agree! I suggest watching this series of videos for more information on the history and origins of Christmas: http://youtu.be/14CLNTDiyCY

    • Rowan

      sorry cynthia…Christmas is a CHRISTIAN holiday. Yule, however IS a pagan holiday–celebrated the 21 or 22 of December. Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa and Hannukah are all celebrations of the season, so to say “Happy Holidays” is perfectly acceptable and non-offensive to anyone.

    • Jim

      Well said. As an atheist with Druid leanings, nothing drives me up the wall as much as “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Jesus was born in Springtime. Christmas is just the early church’s co-option of pre-Christian solstice observances.

  • http://domesticdemoness.wordpress.com domesticdemoness

    Thank you, I very much enjoyed reading this. I live in the UK, in fact, where we do refer to Christmas quite comfortably, despite there being large numbers of people in this country of all sorts of religions, or no religion, all co-existing quite happily with each other. For me, as an atheist, this is not, simply a time for pure commercialism and decadence. Quite the opposite. In fact, my family’s celebrations are very much about family, spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and celebrating what we have. We (my husband and I) try very hard to work against the commercialism at this time of year. We don’t give very decadent gifts, and we DO spend time really appreciating how lucky we are to live in a lovely home, in a politically stable country, with a (relatively) stable economy. We do charitable deeds, spend quality time with our friends, help out our neighbours, and actually do all sorts of things which I would expect many Christians do, spreading love and good will to our fellow humans. The most telling thing for me is that our son, who is nearly 10, says that his favorite thing about Christmas is getting to spend time with his family. It’s not about the gifts for him. This season is a really important one for us as a family. Sure, it could take place at any time of the year in some ways, but I think having a time of year that a whole nation can celebrate and appreciate each other and show each other love, regardless of faith, is a very lovely thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jill.robson.71 Jill Robson

    Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou, I am so glad to hear from one reasonable Christian at this time of year. I class my self as a moralistic pagan and i like to enjoy the season for what it is to me. A time to spend a fun and relaxed time with the people i love. We do not go crazy with giving at Christmas, it is more about family. So from our home to yours have a very Merry Christmas.

  • Michele

    I agree with most of what you have written except I believe the #1 reason should be that Christmas is actually a holiday of pagan origin. Many of the traditions date back all the way back to Babylon. Joshua 24:14-15

  • Betsy C.

    What a post! I agree it is easy to read and insightful! I really appreciate the emphasis on the idea that Jesus would never ask for, expect, or even accept a holiday for himself in the way many of my fellow Christians celebrate it. Giving, compassion, sharing of warmth, food, and fellowship…yes. Anger, greed, gluttony, and some old-fashioned finger pointing? No. Not at all.

  • Christie

    Some very astute observations.
    I hear so many “Christians” telling others about the season, Christmas, their desires to “have their holiday back”.
    I find this ironic. As a devout Scottish Pagan. I am very aware of the broad scope of the upcoming celebratory season. I take great pride in Yule. We have never allowed the holiday to become commercial for our family. My husband is Native American. They also celebrate the start of winter.
    I can not tell you, the number of times we have had to DEFEND ourselves as parents, for “DENYING” our son Christmas presents and Christmas Activities. To Christians!
    Christians who want to criticize me, because we don’t allow Christmas presents?
    It is not about receiving presents!

  • http://cookingwithmybrother.wordpress.com Liti

    I agree with #8.
    But really… many cultures have a mid-winter light festival but it is Christmas that is being celebrated in the great US of A. Face it for it is. Don’t ‘happy hanukah’ me two weeks after Hanukah… don’t ‘happy holidays’ me, ’cause what you mean is ‘merry christmas’. it does not make anyone more PC or blind to differences in ethnicity or religion. it just makes them sound stupid when they say ‘happy holidays’ to someone who celebrates divali. Say ‘happy divali’ and eat some delicious indian food with your indian friends. say ‘happy hanukah’ and eat latkes with you jewish friends. dance around the fire with your atheist friends. and go to the mall for a picture with santa and say ‘merry chtistmas’ and please invite me for some good food on christmas day.

    • Scott

      Yes, because all Indians celebrate Divali, and all Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and all African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, and all atheists dance around campfires(?), and all Christians celebrate Christmas. Perhaps people are a bit more complicated, and the most inclusive solution is to use a universal greeting? After all, these are all holidays and they all occur in the same general period of time, so “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” really are the best ways to celebrate our shared experience. So really, claiming that all Americans celebrate Christmas is merely the least ignorant thing in your post.

      • http://www.irreverin.com irreverins

        i wasn’t really saying that all americans celebrate christmas–just that, nationwide, that’s how much we spent in retail over the big shopping weekend. i’m sure that plenty of folks who don’t recognize any holiday in that time took advantage of the sales. just as many of us who celebrate christmas didn’t shop at all. sorry to be unclear–kind of ruins the flow and the conversational style of my blog to spell all these things out as i go, but i’m always happy to expound.

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  • http://mondodiablo.wordpress.com/ alleee

    The best thing for Christians to do at this season, besides understanding some of its Pagan” (by that I refer to the word origin, meaning “countryman” or simply “folk”) origins of Yuletide is to read “The Battle for Christmas” by Stephen Nissenbaum. This book is about the battle for Christmas WITH Christians. It speaks of the rejection of Christmas by Christians, and how it took a secular movement to convince Christians to

  • http://mondodiablo.wordpress.com/ alleee

    …to celebrate once more. Many had to fight long and hard to convince the church that celebration is not wicked or, dare I say “papist,” and can be done without getting drunk and leaving home. It also calls to task the origins of the modern charity movement and its privileged assumptions, all in an academic yet entertaining book. Worth a read for the Christian, Other, and None-of-the-above alike.

  • John the Drunkard

    As an atheist, I am glad to welcome Xians to use the generic ‘winter festival’ time to celebrate Jesus. The season has been celebrated before and since for reasons that have nothing to do with him.

    Indeed, there is NO biblical reason to assume that his birthday is anywhere near the solstice. In the Levant, in December, shepherds to NOT ‘abide in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night,’ it is far too cold.

    So, Xians, pull up a chair to the yule fire, top off you glass with the wassail on the stove, and enjoy the rebirth of the Sun. If you want to include the Son too, we won’t hold it against you.

  • KaiEm

    I like this! Expanding on your #1… for people who are not christians, as you say, the time from Thanksgiving to New Year is one big holiday season with multiple holidays, not just Christmas.

    Being festive for more than a month is a great way to get through the dreary weather! I spend the end of autumn meditating on how thankful I am and the importance of being charitable, regardless of any specific holiday, and I decorate like CRAZY because ugh, winter is coming. Everyone can relate to that!

    When people get upset that commercialism has taken over Christmas, I feel like they are trying to take over my generic winter cheer-fest with their holiday that actually only happens on one day. This isn’t Ramadan, folks.

  • http://jenxbyron.wordpress.com jenxbyron

    In the spirit of the season, I will point out gently that the occasion and its traditions were “borrowed” almost completely from other faiths, as a means of getting behinds in the pews. It is perhaps slightly disturbing to practitioners of those other faiths to see that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, since, in all actuality, his birthday was strategically chosen to be celebrated at this time to coincide with many holy births, including that of the Sun. As this is a time of goodwill, and I believe there is no longer ill intent for suborning my religion (by MOST people at least), I would just like to point out that we all have freedom of religion here. Let’s enjoy it, and our Yuletide season. (Don’t get me started on Easter. I tend to froth at the mouth.)

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  • Karen

    So much better than my usual snarky reply that I have a difficult time working up sympathy for people who feel persecuted when they are wished “Happy Holidays!”—really do not think American white Christians, in general, have a real handle on what persecution actually feels like!

    • http://www.irreverin.com irreverins

      word, karen. my thoughts exactly.

  • dale clark

    I am so happy to have found this Site. I think too many people, who wish to follow Christ Jesus, are turned off and away by the “RIght-Wing, Fundamentalism” in the media – that has Hi-Jacked Chistrianity. I do not like being identified with that – yet when I identify myself to others as a “Christian” – I am immediately lumped in with that. People will say, “NO!! You are NOT”! – Because their image of Christians is so skewed. It is very sad. So, I am happy to find this on-line group. Thank You and “Happy Holidays” LOL!

    • http://www.irreverin.com irreverins

      thanks, dale–and welcome to the dark side. it’s funnest over here :)

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  • AaronFA

    I Enjoyed your blog. Round where I live people tend to just say “Merry Christmas”,”Happy Hanukkah”,”Joyous Kwanzaa” etc.. Whenever someone greets them with their own form of Greeting. It is quite awesome I will say!

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