December 24, 2009
I admit it, I have been a holiday snob.
I also admit that I do not want to celebrate Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love the Messiah, and want to honor his birth. But we all know full well that December 25th is not even close to when he was born. Interestingly, some scholars would affirm that his birth was probably closer to Sukkot (the last of the fall biblical festivals). Besides, much to the dismay of Christians everywhere, Christmas in it's modern form isn't all about the birth of the Jesus.
I'm not here to convince anyone of when Jesus, or Yeshua, was born. Likewise, I'm not here to talk about all the syncretism that has found it's way into the celebration of Christmas, such as trees, wreaths, mistletoe, etc., although all these things bother me a great deal.
In reality, I can choose what to celebrate or not, based upon my faith. However, that does not change the fact that a lot of my well-meaning friends and acquaintances celebrate, even revel in, Christmas. I would even go so far as to say that even those that claim no religious affiliation the remainder of the year, are inclined to celebrate this holiday. It has been a quandary for me for many years now.
I have come to the revelation that it does not change my faith one iota if I wish one of my friends, family, or even a stranger 'Merry Christmas'. I'm not being dishonest; in truth, I want them to enjoy the holiday, if that is what they choose. For years, I have been resistant to buying Christmas wrapping paper and cards because it might seem as though I was endorsing the holiday. (You might know that I have a mixed-faith family; out of respect, we participate in Christmas gatherings.) I have felt that by telling someone 'Have a Merry Christmas', I was saying that I was happy they were celebrating the holiday and that I wholeheartedly did, as well - which was not entirely true.
For years my family and friends have acted with kindness by wishing me and the kids Happy Hanukkah, even though I have been rather stiff about returning a greeting for their chosen holiday. I am ashamed of my immaturity, and am going to set it right. This year I purchased Christmas cards to hold the several gift cards we are giving, and I have wished several of my friends 'Merry Christmas' on social utilities. Does that mean that I'm celebrating the holiday with full faith and fervor? I hope not, but...now, here's a shocker...it's not about me. It is wrong-headed of me to try to force others to think the way I do, or make them feel like what they are doing is wrong. They have been gracious in acknowledging my holiday...what's my deal?
And that begs the real question: what if what they are doing will be eternally damaging to them and I'm furthering their destruction by not calling into question their actions? I would rather die a thousand deaths than to think that, because of my tolerance, I let my beloved friends and family live in error that caused their suffering. Is that arrogance on my part? to think that I have the truth and they don't?
Or, how about this: will I be called to account for not celebrating the birth of Messiah? is that a form of denying Him?
My answer lies deep within my faith that the G-d of the Universe is just and holy, as well as knowing my heart and theirs. Only the Spirit of Him who created the Universe can reveal what is true and right. I can say what I 'think' is true, and what I believe, but in the end all that falls on deaf ears if the Spirit has not ordained the conversation and prepared hearts and minds, both theirs and mine, to hear whatever truth is spoken.
After all that, I am left with this: I will love my neighbor as myself. I will respect their wishes and desire good for them. I will live my life as a testament of the One who has saved me from the wages of sin, attempting to give Him the glory He deserves. If that involves wishing my Christian friend 'Merry Christmas', then that is what I will do - and, I will be sincere about it, too. And I will always be honored when they wish me a Happy Hanukkah, because it will remind me that they care enough about me to honor my beliefs.