Several years ago, my mom went on a mission trip to Kenya. She went during December, and was pleasantly surprised, after all the Kwanzaa Hype here in the States, to hear Christian Christmas music playing over the loudspeakers at the airport when she got off the plane. There were no signs of Kwanzaa to be found. Only Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Apparently the Kenyans were unaware that they were breaking the norms of politically correct society.
Personally, I think Kwanzaa is sort of cool. I am all about celebrating one’s unique heritage. We celebrate Wigilia on Christmas Eve. (This is a Polish tradition that I will talk about in more depth later.) I love the idea of Hanukkah. I think it’s a wonderful tradition. Those holidays and the people who celebrate them are not offensive to me. Or threatening. Why should they be?
But, here in the good ol’ US of A, Political Correctness reigns supreme! I went to the mall the other day, and visited two stores. I wished the first clerk “Merry Christmas”, and her entire countenance brightened. She happily returned my greeting. I entered the next store feeling a peaceful sense of Christmas contentedness. Until I made the mistake of wishing the clerk in that store “Merry Christmas”. She gave me a very haughty look, pursed her lips in a grimace that I think was supposed to impersonate a smile and managed to squeeze out “Happy Holidays” through her gritted teeth. Emphasis on the word ‘Holidays’. I was honestly surprised. I gave her a sad smile and said “No, I think I’d rather have a Merry Christmas.” And I left.
Of course, on the way to my car I thought of all sorts of witty and heart-changing comments I could have made. I really wish I’d been quick enough to say something like “Thank You! Christmas is the Holiday I celebrate, and I appreciate your support!” And then I began thinking that wishing someone a Merry Christmas should not constitute an act of war. I mean, the birth of Christ was heralded by Angels singing in the Heavens about ‘Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men’. Isaiah prophesied about the child who would lead them to a world where the lion and the lamb would lie down together. How could any rational, thinking person be offended by someone wishing them a Merry Christmas?
I honestly think if I’d wished this young woman a Happy Kwanzaa, she would have brightly smiled and returned the sentiment. (Even though neither of us is black.) If I’d wished her a Happy Hanukkah, she probably would have just freaked out. If I’d said something enlightened and mystical about a blessed Solstice she probably would’ve gone all warm and fuzzy on me! But I offered the one greeting that she could not bear: the greeting offering eternal peace and joy, given freely to mankind, beginning with the Creator of the Universe taking the form of a tiny babe in a manger. Yeah, what was I thinking???
Christmas is a holiday that has been grossly distorted by commercialism and greed. Everyone agrees on that point. But the bottom line is that it is a celebration of the mystical birth of a Savior. A Savior who did not offer the condemnation of political correctness, but the gentle love of eternal redemption. It’s hard to keep that in mind when so many ‘megachurches’ are in the news for various violations of God’s laws, when the media never misses a chance to display and destroy any man or woman of God who has fallen in some way. American Christianity has become synonomous with hypocrisy and falsehood. But that has nothing to do with the tiny Baby laid lovingly in a manger in Bethlehem.
I am deeply saddened that saying “Merry Christmas” is actually forbidden in some department stores around the country. There was a time when even non-Christians accepted the greeting as a joyous gesture of goodwill and peace. Now, apparently, to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” is to throw down the seasonal gauntlet.