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Greeting's form can't take Christ out of Christmas

Nov. 20, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

"Happy Holidays!" These words will inevitably be uttered countless times by employees at major retailers nationwide in the weeks ahead.

For many people, the gesture will hardly be newsworthy or eyebrow-raising. But for others, not being offered a "Merry Christmas" will be met with an offended disdain toward the employees, stores or country they project as taking the "Christ out of Christmas."

Will the offense be enough to cause said shopper to leave the store? Will the individual go as far as some organizations have in tracking which stores offer "Happy Holidays" and boycotting those retailers?

"Offense" is a double-edged sword, and it cuts both ways. Advice, and argumentation to support it, should be offered to those who will inevitably grit their teeth, seethe in their minds, and lament the downfall of the country at the lack of a "Merry Christmas" in their favorite superstore. The advice is this: Rejoice and respond to others out of a grounded expectation.

Christmas is a holiday created for celebration. Undoubtedly that celebration centers upon the Incarnation. The Incarnation is a historic, Christian doctrine that simply articulates that the God of the Bible took on flesh with the birth of Jesus the Christ. Because the Incarnation is a historic event, the objectivity of it is not predicated upon 21st century recognition -- in the form of holidays, days off from work or cultural greetings.

Was Best Buy, Target or Bass Pro Shop founded upon Christian principles? Do the stores fueling societal consumerism exist explicitly for the glory of God? Is Jesus mentioned in their mission statements?

The fact that stores increasingly set up Christmas merchandise well before Thanksgiving points to one of two things: These stores are greatly anticipating the worship of God in the birth of Jesus or financial motivation provides the fuel for behavior. Stores cater to Christmas shoppers not because of Christmas but because of shoppers.

As none would desire or expect to receive medical treatment from someone unqualified, we would rightly be aghast to know someone not a doctor called themselves one. Why then would anyone expect an industry that is not Christian to act as such?

When the greeter or checkout person smiles and gives you a "Happy Holidays," respond politely, smile back (especially on Black Friday, where "black" takes on greater connotations than fiscal growth), and know that you do not need the pretense of "keeping Christ in Christmas" when it is an impossibility for Him to be removed from your celebration.

William Erps is pastor of Missio Dei Church in Huntington.

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