Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays: Does it really matter?

Veronica Sexton

Each December, a new scandal kicks off everyone’s favorite seasonal debate: “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.”

It’s not hard to get things churning. All it takes is one person to take offense and soon our social streams are exploding with opinions on every side. 

The Enemy’s Dirty Distraction

When we participate in the mud-slinging against those we claim are removing Christ from our society — those who never claimed to follow Him — the mud falls back onto the Church. The bride of Christ gets soiled.

Satan wants to distract us from Jesus, from our own callings, and from uniting us for a greater purpose (2 Corinthians 11:3). But if we're to fulfill the Great Commission, shouldn't we care more about whether the world sees Jesus in us than about the world’s commercialized version of our beliefs? Shouldn't our first concern be to meet people where they are to draw them toward Jesus, instead of drawing battle lines in the sand (Matthew 9:9-13)?

When we see the mud-slinging over the next hot topic, we don't have to play into the enemy's hands (1 Peter 3:9). The integrity of our own relationship with Jesus demands that His peace, love, and compassion “shine in our hearts” as we reach out to the world (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).

Before You React, Pause and Reflect on These Four Questions

Knowing Satan uses the same bag of tricks, we can be on guard by asking ourselves a few questions (Ephesians 6:10-17 and 2 Corinthians 2:11).

1. Am I more focused on the appearance of religion than I am on the will of God?

It’s hard to examine our own faults and sins. That’s why it’s so easy for the enemy to make us focus on the faults of others, whether believers’ or unbelievers’. We can get so caught up in aligning language and tradition with religion that our hearts aren't aligned with Jesus. It's called legalism, and it's the same trap that the Pharisees fell into—the very people who persecuted Christ (Matthew 23). The longer we walk with Jesus, the easier it is to slide into this trap, so you wouldn't be alone if you struggle with this.

Romans 14 offers solid advice for keeping our focus on Jesus. You can also check out Larry Osborne’s book, Accidental Pharisees, in which he describes how to avoid the common traps along the road of a deepening faith, because Satan is always looking for a way to destroy us (John 10:10).

2. Am I being persecuted — really?

Scripture says that even in persecution, we are alive in Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). But persecution is not the same as facing disagreement or being in the same society as other religions and worldviews. Persecution is facing hostility, oppression, or death specifically because of one’s religious beliefs or practices. We only need to glance at the global news to see what real Christian persecution looks like. Here in America, most of us have only been mocked. Even then, Jesus tells us that we’re blessed when we’re insulted because of Him (Matthew 5:11).

3. How can I use this opportunity to start a conversation or establish a relationship?

If someone wishes us "Happy Holidays" instead of “Merry Christmas,” shouldn't we recognize and return the favor? Instead of responding with a passive-aggressive "Merry Christmas!" we can first open the door to a conversation with a kind and gentle "Thank you!" and make them wonder where our hope comes from (1 Peter 3:15).

4. Will this draw others toward Jesus or push them away?

This is especially important to consider on social media, which usually isn’t the best vehicle for conversation and relationship. Too often, social media is used for firing “bullet” statements which wound and exclude others.

Jesus bridged the gap between us and God, once and for all (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Because we’ve been called to go out into a broken world, we should be careful that our words and actions build bridges, not walls. But self-righteous indignation won’t win people to Jesus; our love and compassion will.

Self-righteous indignation won’t win people to Jesus; our love and compassion will.

Redirecting Our Focus

Rather than pushing others away from Jesus with petty arguments, we can choose to live in such a way as to honor not just Jesus’ birth, but His entire ministry. We can choose to obey His greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27-37). This is how others will recognize us as His followers (John 13:35). And this is how He will reach — and ultimately change — the world.   

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