'Merry CHRIST-mas, Pastor Rick' - music to my ears on this HOLY-day

I love Christmas — it’s my favorite time of year!

I love the Christmas food and Christmas parties, Christmas lights and Christmas trees, Christmas music and, of course, Christmas gifts. But as good as these features are, they aren’t the No. 1 reason I love Christmas. Of all the reasons to love Christmas, there is one that rises above the rest.

I love Christmas primarily because my favorite six-letter word is said over and over: C-H-R-I-S-T. Christmas carols, Christmas concerts, Christmas cards. Christ, Christ, Christ. I love that in our secular 21st century culture, people the world over say “Christ” again and again, and they aren’t even swearing. For anyone who loves Christ, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year.

But not everyone likes the word Christ. There are some folks in our culture who don’t like any public reference to Jesus or religion, so they want Christ excised (sometimes literally) from Christmas. They claim that saying the word “Christ” is exclusive and offensive to those of other religions or of no religion. So instead of “Merry Christmas,” they demand we substitute less offensive phrases like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

To me, such suggestions are crazy—and offensive. Removing Christ from Christmas would be like removing Washington from Washington, D.C., or omitting Martin Luther King Jr. from the history of the civil rights movement in America.

So how should believers in Jesus respond to today’s subtle attempts to remove Christ from Christmas? My simple suggestion is:

?       Instead of saying “Christmas,” say “CHRIST-mas.”

?       Instead of saying “Happy Holidays,” say “Happy HOLY-days.”

?       Instead of saying “Season’s Greetings,” say “SAVIOR’s Greetings.”

Let’s stop pronouncing “Merry Christmas” with a short “i” sound, as in “chicken” or “insecure” or “wimp.” Instead, let’s say the name of Jesus with gusto: “Christ.” Say it with a long “i” sound as in “wise,” “might” or “fight.” After all, we don’t pray to Jesus Chrĭst.

What about “Happy Holidays”? For those who prefer to exclude the Nazarene altogether, this safe, secular-sounding phrase seems to be the phrase of choice. But of course, at its core, “holiday” is a religious word, a compound of “holy” and “day.” Historically, certain days were set apart by the church as feast and worship days in honor of some saint or to recognize an important event in salvation history. For instance, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day were to honor the Christian leaders Valentinus and Patrick, not chubby cupids or shamrocks. Even Halloween has religious roots: All Hallows’ Eve was the night before All Hallows’ Day, a.k.a. All Saints’ Day, on Nov. 1.

Holidays originally were HOLY-days. But the general public gradually lost this connection, and, sadly, lots of unholy things are now done on holidays. I call this a meaning-drift that results in moral-drift. Of course, a similar meaning-drift has happened to Memorial Day. Today it’s more of a “Let’s Have a Barbecue” Day, with not even a pause to remember those who gave their lives so this country could be free.

So we who believe that the greatest event of all time was the Incarnation—the moment when Almighty God became a helpless, human infant in Bethlehem—should reclaim CHRIST-mas as a true HOLY-day. It’s not a mere party-day; it is a HOLY-day. So say it with joy and meaning. HOLY-day, HOLY-day, HOLY-day!

Lastly, what can be done about the saccharine phrase “Season’s Greetings?” Since its modern usage seems to be the result of a gradual abbreviation of longer phrases like “the Christmas Season” or “the Holiday Season,” it’s again rooted in Christmas, shorthand for “I greet you in the spirit of the Christmas season.”

Personally, I’d like it banned as a nonsensical and meaningless phrase, but that’s not likely to happen. So I suggest that believers in Jesus, the One through whom the heavens and the earth—and therefore the seasons—were created, learn a new phrase instead: “SAVIOR’s Greetings.”

Can these phrases catch on? Well, one year, as our city’s holiday parade passed us by, the Santa on the float noticed me standing on the side of the road and roared, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry CHRIST-mas, Pastor Rick! Happy HOLY-days!” And I smiled, happy to hear again my very favorite word pronounced with gusto.