That the season is again upon us has generated further discussion of the idea that there is a war on Christmas. If there is, it is sad that it is so.
There are people who deliberately use the phrase "happy holidays" in lieu of "merry Christmas" because they wish to avoid offending non-believers. Others do it as a way of asserting and affirming their right to not believe in anything, making the act of conveying good wishes something of a provocation and challenge. The networks still show "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "The Year without a Santa Claus" but, other than "A Charlie Brown Christmas" the holiday specials are generally devoid of any religious context, "The Little Drummer Boy" having been permanently consigned to the discount DVD bin.
Schools hold "holiday concerts" that serve up offerings celebrating Kwanza and Hanukah but any Christmas music included in the program is for the most part decidedly secular. State and local governments erect "holiday trees" next to Menorahs – even though the Jewish holiday came unusually early this year. And anyplace that wants to put up a crèche symbolizing the visitation of the Baby Jesus by the shepherds and three wise men must be sure to do it on private land lest someone file a lawsuit.
Whether or not this all constitutes a "war on Christmas" is debatable. This year's big question seems to be all about whether or not Santa Claus is a white man. It does put an unfortunate caste on the season, a season that is supposed to be all about peace on earth and good will toward men.
Consider if you will from the standpoint of a sincere Christian the meaning of Christ's birth. He came, not as a judge but as the Savior through whose death the relationship between mankind and God that had been abridged by sin could be permanently restored. Admittedly not everyone believes this but, as Pastor Don Davidson of the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia said in his sermon Sunday last, Jesus was sent to live among men and women as a gift, a gift borne of God's love for us all.
Christmas therefore does not just mark the remembrance of a very special birthday but is in fact a celebration of love, a very special kind of love, unique and set apart from that associated with fleshly and emotional desires and needs. To be at war with Christmas, therefore, is to be at war with love – and mankind has hopefully not yet reached that stage no matter how much sin, depravity and evil are evident in the world.
There is still plenty of room for peace and for joy, to show respect to one another even across the widest of disagreements and intractable boundaries. It is incumbent upon all of us to recognize that each of us is a person, a wonderful creation deserving of admiration, of praise, of assistance and of love without regard to circumstance or creed. We must all do this freely, regardless of the response we receive for it is the one true gift we have for one another, given without any expectation that something will be given in return.
The next time someone says "Merry Christmas," even if you don't believe, please don't bark or complain. Just smile and say "Thank you." If someone says "happy holidays," and you are an observant Christian, don't correct them. Just smile and say "And merry Christmas to you."
"Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls," the poet John Donne wrote, "It tolls for thee." In interpersonal relationships just as in physics, for each action there is always and equal and opposite reaction. The greatest thing we can do for on another, scripture tells us, is to love each other as we love ourselves. Show that to others this season and you will not be disappointed.