It's Okay to Say "Merry Christmas"

It’s Okay to Say “Merry Christmas”

A man came into church last Sunday and said, “Merry Christmas.” Then he looked at me and said, “I guess it’s still all right to say that here.” His comment reflects the growing frustration many Christians feel about the aggressive secularization of American culture. It’s happening in many places, and most of the time we may not even notice it, but you can’t escape it this time of year. Everywhere you go, you hear “Happy holidays,” not “Merry Christmas.” A recent article by Nathan Biersma in the Chicago Tribune points out that the word “merry” has almost disappeared from the English language because it sounds quaint, old-fashioned, and Victorian. The writer has a point. When else can we use the word “merry” if not at Christmastime? The word itself means cheerful or happy, with a hint of playful mischief. If you had a “merry old time” at the party last night, it means you probably laughed a lot. In bygone times, the word meant “brightly colored,” “attractive,” “pleasant,” and even “fragrant.” When we say “Merry Christmas,” we are wishing happiness and joy to those we meet because Christ has been born. Some may suggest that we should not extend that greeting to those who don’t know the Lord. But do we not sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come?” The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!” (Luke 2:10). We celebrate Christmas precisely because salvation has now come to the world. He did not come to save a few people, but to deliver from sin all those who trust in him. Here is my modest suggestion: Don’t say “Happy holidays.” Say “Merry Christmas.” Say it politely and with a smile, but say it. I think it’s foolish to needlessly offend someone, and I understand why nearly all stores have instructed their workers to use the bland “Happy holidays.” They can’t afford to lose any customers. Better to be bland than provocative, I suppose. But as Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Sometimes salt stings a little bit. The sting is part of its curative properties. If someone you know has asked you not to say, “Merry Christmas,” fine, you don’t have to say it because by asking you not to say it, the point has already been made. But that exception applies to approximately .0001% of the population. Most people will respond very well to a kind and friendly “Merry Christmas.” I’m not arguing for writing letters or protesting anything or anyone. We needn’t campaign about “Merry Christmas.” We should just go ahead and say it. And smile. When we say “Merry Christmas,” we mean, “May you have a blessed, beautiful, joyful, pleasant, and fragrant Christmas because Christ has come to the world.” After all, it really is Good News. Why should we keep it to ourselves?

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