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Go ahead. Say it.

December 10, 2019

On my way out of Walmart the other day, the greeter said, “Happy Holidays.” I said, “Merry Christmas,” back to her. Her response: “Thank You!”

I made a commitment to myself, back around Halloween, when the Christmas stuff started going up on the shelves, that I would say “Merry Christmas” as often as I can this year. Especially when I’m wished “Happy Holidays.” (I also made a commitment that I wouldn’t play Christmas music until Thanksgiving… But that’s a whole other thing.)

Now, I know I live in the Heartland, very near the Buckle of the Bible Belt, but hearing an enthusiastic and positive response to “Merry Christmas” reminded me that there are very few people in my world who are actually offended by this greeting I’ve been saying for most of my 66 years. I’m not saying it in hopes of offending anyone. If “Merry Christmas” is offensive to someone, I’ll probably ask them what they will be celebrating this December. I’ll apologize and wish them a lovely season, whatever they celebrate. I say “probably” because I’ve never actually offended anybody with “Merry Christmas” (that I know of). Honestly, I’m not trying to pick a fight with anybody. I’m not sure there’s anybody to fight with.

If “Merry Christmas” bothers you, don’t say it. And I apologize for exposing you to it. But if it expresses your sentiment, go ahead. Say it. If you’re in an Islamic country, don’t say it it. But if you’re pretty much anywhere else, give it a try.

If you want to, you can make it a teaching moment with your kids. Saying “Merry Christmas” is a great moment to bring up the idea of what Christmas is really all about with your kids. You don’t have to give a deep theological exposition of the origin and meaning of Christmas. That probably wouldn’t help them, anyway. (By the way, if you want to know about the origins of our Christmas celebration, there’s about a gazillion places on the Internet that have more than you really want to know, unless you’re writing a term paper on the subject. And probably more than you need even for that.)

This teaching moment I have in mind is all about getting back to the heart of Christmas. Jesus, God’s Son. What’s been called “Advent.”

Kids, even well trained and spiritually sensitive ones, have trouble keeping the heart of Christmas in mind when they’re bombarded with all the commercials and wish lists in the air this time of year. Getting and giving gifts is a good and happy thing. So don’t push so hard against the commercialization of it that you make it an anti-generosity thing. But account for the fact that kids need help contextualizing their generosity and the generosity of others toward them, or else Christmas will be just a day to get stuff they wouldn’t be able to ask for any other time of year.

An Advent Calendar is a good way to do this. You can get them for a few bucks at bookstores, or you can order them online for about the same amount. They come with instructions, and they’ll help you walk your family through the Christmas story a day at a time.

An Advent Wreath is also a good way to keep coming back to the heart of Christmas. You may have to go on line to find a set to purchase. You could also make you own set, if you’re a crafty person. If this is something you would like to do, here’s a simple YouTube video that will give you pretty much everything you need for it:

Here’s a good site for the meaning of each of the five Advent Candles:

There are other ways to bring your family back to center on the real heart of Christmas. Great Christmas music. Great Christmas movies. Talking about great Christmas memories. Or one other (and bigger) suggestion: making Christmas wonderful for a family who otherwise won’t have a wonderful Christmas.

Years ago, a friend of mine asked his family, when his kids were in grade school, if they wanted to take this on as a family project. He suggested that instead of asking for stuff for Christmas for themselves, they would all decide on how much money would normally have been spent on presents for them, and they would spend that much money on the family they had chosen to bless. It was their favorite and most meaningful Christmas. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Whatever you choose to do about focusing on the real heart and meaning of Christmas, take initiative. Be intentional.

Have a Merry Christmas. And go ahead. Say it.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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