It's officially the advent season. The time of year when decorations are everywhere you turn, where cheerful lights proclaim Christmas around the corner, where you expect smiles from your fellow man and sales in the stores and happy greetings to be upon lips.
The season where, in recent years, everyone finds something to . . . complain about.
Yep. Let's face it. This has become a season of glaring at one's fellow man as often as smiling at him.
I honestly have no idea where the chain of offenses began. Were people who don't celebrate Christmas offended at storekeepers wishing them a happy one? Is that why some of the big stores dispensed with "Merry Christmas" and opted for "Happy Holidays"? I don't know.
But I do know this. My job as a Christian is to save my offense for matters of sin. Of ungodliness. Of things that endanger the soul. And a non-Christian not celebrating the day of Christ's birth isn't one of those. Honestly, it's kind of right, isn't it? We shouldn't get offended at non-Christians not celebrating Christmas. If anything, we should get offended at how many do, and then twist the meaning. But I digress...
My job is not to get all up in arms over a greeting. Or, heaven forbid, a coffee cup. (I mean seriously?) I'm not going to get offended at schools calling it Winter Break. I'm not.
For me, this decision came easily when I was a sophomore in college, working at an insurance agency after school. We sent out a lot of mail and had a printing scale to apply the postage to it. We could choose our postmark, and around this time of year, we chose one that said, "Happy Holidays." Why? Because we had Jewish clients, and we wanted to respect them.
I have no problem with that.
What's more, we used that stamp for nearly two months--beginning in mid-November through January. Guess what--that covers more than just Christmas. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years...not to mention Hanukkah or Kwanzaa (which still baffles me, but let's not go there...) were all included.
I'm 100% cool with that. I always thought that was part of the fun of this time of year--the multiple holidays we get to celebrate. So why do so many Christians get offended at "Happy Holidays"?
I don't know, but the joke's kinda on the users who think they're stripping the time of year of religious meaning, isn't it? Holiday literally means "holy day." Holy. As in, hallowed, sacred, dedicated to God. (Didn't know you'd get a bonus Word of the Week, did ya?) ;-) Tell me, why should that offend a Christian?
There is plenty in this world, and in this season, to be offended by. I'm offended by the mass commercialism that has taken it over. I'm offended that people think gifts are more important than Christ. I'm offended that Santa Claus has been so distorted that he's seen as a pagan elf rather than who he truly was--a saint dedicated to giving in Christ's name.
But I will not be offended by:
* Happy Holidays (holy days are by definition days given to God. So yeah. Wish me happy holidays.)
* Santa Claus in principle (because I know his true story, and it's inspiring. Read this blog I wrote last year if you're not familiar with the amazing early church tradition of St. Nicholas)
* Red cups (I mean, really.)
* Snowflakes, penguins, etc. decorations (because, yo, folks--it's winter. I'm not offended at fall leaf decorations either. Or flowers in the spring.)
* Schools calling it Winter Break (because it is, and while it's Christmas break for many, it isn't for all. I'm okay with that.)
Yep, there is plenty in the world to get upset about. But as Christians, we're supposed to answer to a higher standard. Let's not get riled at the world acting like the world, or even at the world not taking part in what is supposed to be our holiday.
Let's save our offense for where it counts.