In the U.S., we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday this week, a holiday that, while originally tied to religious components in the language of its original proclamation, did not spring forth from any sort of faith tradition. That is to say, while it is a holiday that is loosely tied to the Christian faith, it is not a holiday rooted in the Christian Church’s history or theology. It’s more a national day of remembrance, if you will.
This is interesting when we consider the season into which we enter. A couple of weeks ago, our daughter requested to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, a longstanding prerequisite for me to enter any sort of Christmas “spirit.” While that was a bit early, I’ll admit, I am beginning to find myself feeling the peace of the Holiday early this year, which is a welcome change from recent years, during which I struggled through Christmas day to feel anything at all.
All as we enter a decidedly non-religious holiday.
One of the holidays encapsulated when I wish someone, “Happy Holidays.”
Something that I do, because, much to the apparent horror of many other members of the Christian faith who apparently have no more substantive an outlet than anger over a coffee chain’s cup design, I find this expression not diminutive to my own faith, but rather respectful of my fellow human beings.
You see, many of my friends and colleagues practice different faiths than I do. Some practice no faith at all. A way in which I am particularly blessed, however, is that all of my colleagues and friends are respectful of this. My wishing them Happy Holidays, a phrase which encompasses the group of winter holidays, some of which are not religious and some of which may or may not be holidays that my friends or I observe, is being polite and civil to them. It is, in fact, far more appropriate that they wish me a Merry Christmas than I them, if they do not celebrate Christmas, because that is them being kind to me, as it is kind of me to wish them, for example, a Happy Hanukkah.
So, all of this to say that, as much as playable sound-bytes might have one to believe otherwise, there are those of us who take the practice of our faith very seriously, and part of the practice of my faith is to love my neighbor. That means respecting my neighbor, not forcing the practice of my faith on them.
That said, I find it quite sad that any member of any faith would waste this much energy being upset over the phraseology of a holiday wish, year after year. After all, with so many experiencing hunger, injustice, poverty, and loneliness over any of these winter holidays, it seems that the true practice of our faith would involve something much more…human…than debating whether or not we’ve “kept Christ in Christmas.”
Because, if we’ve loved the least of these, then we have.
Regardless of the verbiage of our expression.