We live in a time when even saying “Merry Christmas” to a stranger might get you a dirty look. How did this come to pass?
Yes, I’m all in favor of cultural sensitivity. There is a time and a place for “Happy Holidays”. But when did “Merry Christmas” become the semantic equivalent of an insult?
Yes, it’s true that Christmas in our time has been cheapened, commercialized, and degraded. Yes, it’s true that there are those who do not believe Jesus Christ was divine. And yes, it’s true that Christians can sometimes be insufferable in their zeal.
There are some who say that I suffer from a “mental disorder” for believing in God, and that I am “deluded” for participating in a false and commercial holiday such as Christmas. To them, and to all those who would criticize me for not only celebrating Christmas but for believing it to still be important and relevant, I would say this:
I do not know if the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was divine. I do not know if he performed miracles. I do not know if he was resurrected from the dead.
And I’m not sure I even care.
What I do know is that he preached a message of love, tolerance, peace, and forgiveness at a time when his people were looking for a leader who would overthrow the Romans and return Israel to its former glory. I know he was spurned by the religious establishment of his day. And I know that he really, really, pissed off the government. Like so many who came after him, he was murdered because he would not back down from saying things he felt needed to be said, even to the point of surrendering his own life in the process.
Ultimately, it matters not what one believes regarding the Divine. The fact is that all of us, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, and all the rest of the human race are stuck together on this little rock we call Earth. Imagine what the world would be like if people really did live their lives the way Jesus of Nazareth extolled us to: love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, judge not lest you be judged.
If one can grasp those ideas, then one has truly grasped the very real meaning of Christmas. And so, whatever your beliefs, please allow me to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
-Stephen P. Smith