The cacophony of Christmas sounds have grown increasingly strained during 2005. The battle over the proper greeting during this season has reached new levels of complexity. That North America has become increasingly secularized is nothing new. The commercial themes of this time of year have long dominated the horizon. Part of this dominant reality is due to the intentional dismissal of the sacred by some, but much of our current situation is due to the priority of consumer-driven life that rules our nation.
Syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas, got it right in his recent editorial when he noted that even a casual observer or biblical illiterate could reasonably draw the conclusion that crass commercialization of Christmas had long carried the day. Thomas further noted the followers of Christ might look only as far as themselves to find an indictment of why the sounds of Christmas have become so raucous.
My greeting of choice during this time of the year is Merry Christmas. I do not offer such a greeting as an apologetic for my religious beliefs or as an indicator of political persuasion. However, my greeting is a clear indicator that I am willing to be connected to a spiritual reality whose fullest impact is, at times, misunderstood, regularly misrepresented, and rarely given serious consideration (even by the most vocal followers). I dare to believe that the announcement of Christ's birth by the angels and their declaration that the birth of Christ was good news to all people is still intact today. The angelic choir's theme that announced Christ's birth focused on the resultant peace that might come through Christ's life.
The lack of peace in the suburbs of Paris and the violent struggles currently seen on the sun baked beaches of Sydney make obvious the deep need of that peace and reconciliation at this very moment. The violence expressing itself around the globe may become just another topic of debate as we view it on CNN, detached from its fullest implications. Yet in countless homes across America, this season, there will also be wars that could use a dose of the peace that the Christ of Christmas can bring. The frustration of poverty will boil over, the pain of broken relationships will be revealed, and the addiction of the consumer life will max out numerous credit cards. The simple equation, that lives centered on self-serving activities will ultimately back-fire, still needs an alternative of hope that the life and message of Jesus Christ offers.
When I say Merry Christmas I am willing to be stereotyped by some as hopelessly out of touch and even worse, a representative of a repressive religion. Yet, as a follower of the Christ of Christmas, I simply believe that the strife-filled world into which Christ was born is still in desperate need of the fullest impact of His life and message. My greeting of choice is still Merry Christmas, but the battle that has ensued over greetings this year challenges me and all followers of Christ to revisit whether or not we have represented Christ fairly or have cast shadows on the peace His life and message embodies.