Seasonal Reflection:  Christmas, 2017

Reflecting on Peace

“Merry Christmas!” What a simple, happy greeting! How on earth did it become the center of so much controversy? Some argue we should say, “Happy Holidays” instead. Others say “Happy Holidays” is a “war on Christmas,” an attempt to negate Christmas’s very existence. Of course, some of those who argue for “Merry Christmas” are no more likely to celebrate the religious meaning of the holy day than are their nonreligious neighbors. Unfortunately, “Merry Christmas” has become hostage to political wrangling, an appeal to conservative Christians, and a denial of other faiths and other festivals.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s try to get beyond the politics and the controversy. Let’s try to consider what Christmas is all about. It’s about the birth of a Savior, God become human, as small and vulnerable as we ever are. It’s about reaching out to lowly laborers in the guise of shepherds and to wealthy, educated sages in the guise of magi. Christmas is nestled in the reality of wonder and delight, but also jealousy and bloodshed caused by a ruthless king against innocent first-born baby boys. It delivers hope and promise, but also hard lessons like “love your enemy; do good to those who persecute you” and “Forgive not 7 times, but 70 x 7 times.” Christmas leads to both crucifixion and resurrection. It is not merely a day to celebrate or a phrase to proclaim; it is a call to welcome everyone, poor and rich, simple and wise, friend and foe. It is a commitment to love and forgive, to suffer with Jesus and to rejoice with Him.

Anyone who chooses to wish people “Merry Christmas” should keep all this in mind. It’s a powerful and weighty message. Anyone who chooses to say “Happy Holidays” may be no less aware. The Christmas season is a holiday season for all whom Jesus came to embrace, whether they are Christian or not. And whether you greet people with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays should not matter nearly as much as what’s behind the words. Chances are that Babe in a manger cares much more about how you live than what you say, and chances are He’s more sensitive to the feelings of the recipient than to which greeting you use.


Prayer: A Christmas Creed


I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.
I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town;
and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, in towns both large and small. 
I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room,
and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.
I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand;
whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.
I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:
I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother's arms,
whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth,
who looked at persons and made them see what God's love saw in them,
who by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.
I confess my ever-lasting need of God: The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed,
the need of new life for empty souls, the need of love for hearts grown cold.
I believe in God who gives us the best of himself.
I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God,
born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world.


Suggested Actions

  • - Rather than being caught up in the debate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday, greet people with a smile, a listening ear, an open heart, and a kind word.

    - Remember there was no Christmas by name or reputation when Jesus was born, but there was Jesus, a helpless, dependent newborn come to everyone, especially society’s outcasts, to teach us how to live humbly, generously, compassionately, and mercifully. Strive to be a true follower of Jesus in the way you live and love God, yourself, and each other.

    - Resolve to set your priorities in the New Year so that the common good precedes individual pride or profit. Dedicate yourself to peacemaking and justice building whether in small ways or grand.

Reflection Archives

2017:  Advent
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