The Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays debate.
Good morning. My name is David Sorn, and I am the Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
You know…when I first started speaking at Bible Studies, and then youth groups, and then churches, over 7 years ago, I told myself I was not going to be what I labeled, “A Holiday Speaker”
The church I went to once in a while growing up, every time there was some sort of holiday, that’s what the sermon was about. No joke.
Christmas, Easter, New Years (new commitments), Valentine’s (love), Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day (remembering), Thanksgiving (giving thanks), Flag Day (j/k)
In fact, I was so put off by it, that the very first year I was a pastor, I didn’t talk about Easter on Easter Sunday. Whoops. Rookie mistake.
There are obviously extremes on either end that one could take, but Christmas is worth talking about
Not only because it’s obviously an important part in the history of God (him arriving on earth), but because it’s something that we are surrounded with, and will be, over the next 12 days.
Which, I think, is an opportunity for us (if we take it) to be thinking about God even more than normal, which is great!
But then again, Christmas has changed a lot in our culture, hasn’t it?
We don’t talk about wise men, we talk about Frosty and Rudolph
We don’t talk about Mary and Joseph, we talk about Wal-Mart and Black Friday, and Christmas Eve Shopping
And we don’t about the Baby Jesus, instead in MN, the Baby Jesus is Joe Mauer.
What’s happened is we’ve made it quite possible to go through X-Mas w/o thinking about Christ
2 years ago…Rum River Tree Farm story (I did a bunch of Christmas festivities w/o thinking about Christ)
However, we’ve got even more problems nowadays right?
It’s not just that Christmas has been “commercialized” right??
Christmas also now apparently has “competition”
There are other Holidays, right?
By the way, Holidays comes from the words “Holy Days”
And I guess the other Holidays are what???
I mean, I never really got the competition thing
Holiday #1: Thanksgiving. Who’s against Thanksgiving?
No one! Actually, I looked, and apparently there are ppl against it. Who knew?
Holidays #2: Hanukah
I think people wouldn’t get so worked up about this whole deal if they knew what Hanukah was actually about:
Hanukah is the story of a Jewish rebellion 165 years before Christ. A Pagan King (Antiochus IV) had conquered Jerusalem, desecrated the temple, and (catch the irony of this), declared that everyone should give up their own faiths and just celebrate them all together
But the Jews (Jesus’ ancestors) revolted, and took back the temple, and rededicated (Hanukah means dedication) it to God, saying God (the same God we worship) is the one true God
Kind of ironic right…but apparently Christmas is in competition with that
Holiday #3: Christmas (I think we’re familiar)
Holiday #4: Kwanzaa
Which is s a “secular, non-religious honoring of African-American heritage”
Holiday #5: New Years
So let me ask you, besides the fact that people are uninformed, what’s the problem here? What’s happened???
I think the problem is this: Christians, just like the rest of our culture in the 21st century, have developed this unending and unquenchable desire (above all things) to make sure we do NOT offend someone
And as a result of THAT fear, we are slowly watching before our eyes the erosion of Christmas
It started years ago..
Elem. School: Christmas parties stop
Slowly it has become offensive to say, “Merry Christmas”
Each year, it gets worse…
Many stores sell “Holiday Trees” now
So, what happened is: Christmas has become diluted and changed, and now you can’t even talk about the “wrong version” of Christmas (the commercialized one) cuz even that is offensive!
And it’s all kind of silly:
What’s offensive about Santa and Rudolph? Seriously?
What’s even offensive about the REAL version of Christmas?
That God came to earth as a baby because He loved humanity so much? That’s offensive?
If you told that msg to ppl, it’s not like they would respond, “That’s the meanest message I’ve ever heard!”
It’s also ironic that all of the non-religious ppl in media continually push the idea of blurring all religions together into one “politically correct” happy family.
And “Happy Holidays” is just another puzzling example of this
Blending everything into 1 watered-down mess is not only NOT helpful, but it’s illogical:
For instance: You ever meet people who are really into sports and but there mostly just into one sport. And they maybe even HATE another sport that takes place at the same time.
I grew up in Cambridge, MN where football and God were on the same plane.
Unfortunately for me, I played soccer.
Soccer wasn’t not an appreciated sport there.
We were the only team in our conference that couldn’t play our games on the FB field
Nevertheless, in our town, you had the FB players who really believed in FB, Soccer players who really believed in Soccer
What if Athletic Director said, “don’t want anyone to get offended, so we’ll cancel both and just play rugby so everyone’s happy!”
That’s what we do w/ Christmas!
Because we don’t want to offend and want everyone to be happy, we end up playing Rugby (the Holiday Season), and left w/ a watered down Christmas…a Rugby Christmas.
And it ends up satisfying no one!
A MIS-GUIDED ANSWER
So what do we do?? What’s the answer here?
Let me tell you first what I think A LOT of Christians wrongly think the answer is:
A lot of people have surveyed the landscape over the last 50 years and watched Christmas slowly start to erode in front of their eyes, and have wrongly determined that the answer is: “TO ALWAYS SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS, TO FROWN WHEN PEOPLE SAY HAPPY HOLIDAYS, TO BOYCOT ALL COMMERCIAL ASPECTS OF CHRISTMAS, AND TO THROW STONES AT ANYONE WHO PUTS UP A SANTA IN THEIR YARD INSTEAD OF JESUS, AND ON AND ON!
And I see more and more of this every year from Christians. Let me give you a couple of examples I saw this year.
(Show “CHRIST-mas Tree” picture)
“Naughty or Nice Christmas” List
See more and more Christians who cringe at the word “Holidays” like it’s some sort of cuss word your mom wouldn’t let you say growing up
And when it gets to the point where someone says to us, “Happy Holidays,” and we arrogantly say back, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!” And then walk away…we’ve sadly missed the point
For many of us this whole Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas thing hasn’t really been about Jesus, it’s sadly just been about us being right.
WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
But what is the Christmas story really about? What is Christmas really about? What are we supposed to do with the Christmas story? Let’s remember what it really says:
(Luke 1:30-33) - NIV
30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
(Matthew 1:20-23) - NIV
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
Let me ask you then: Are we supposed to take that true story…that true story that God sent his Son to earth to offer hope to ALL of humanity, that He sent His Son to be “God with us,” the story that indeed the Savior did come, that salvation is available to ALL who would receive it...are we supposed to take THAT message and turn it into, “WE’RE RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG! AND IF YOU DON’T LET US MENTION CHRISTMAS, WE’LL BOYCOTT YOU, SUE YOU, AND FIGHT YOU TO THE DEATH. YOU CAN’T TAKE CHRISTMAS AWAY FROM US!”
Since when did Christmas become something we were supposed to hold on to instead of share with others?
We are living in a country where religious syncretism is growing at an unbelievably alarming rate.
Religious syncretism is basically when people blend different religious beliefs together
It’s like people who believe in Jesus, Karma, and reincarnation all in one.
They’re mutually exclusive, they don’t go together. They contradict each other
However, the postmodern, millennial generation (people born after 1980), grew up in a world where absolute truth was really questioned, so people are starting to (sometimes w/o reason) just blend religious things together
Study out this week by “Pew Study” (gallup of religious polls) that mentions plenty of disturbing statistics about how people are mixing and matching different aspects of religions at an alarming rate.
And no time of year are we more aware of this than the “Holiday Season.”
Or, let me rephrase, no time of year are Christians more “afraid of this” than the Holiday Season
Which is fine. I think it’s something we should be afraid of.
Losing the central, defining message of what Jesus Christ is really all about (or even what Christmas is really all about), is a MAJOR problem for Christianity, and it’s a scary thing
But let’s get one thing clear… We aren’t going to fix it, by screaming the loudest, signing the most petitions, and ramming MERRY CHRISTMAS down people’s throats
I just got an invite on Facebook yesterday for a group called, “I say ‘Merry Christmas,’ NOT ‘Happy Holidays.”
The group description was: “So where does this Happy Holiday stuff come from? We have always said Merry Christmas and we always will! If you have a problem with it, get over it!”
In just a couple of weeks, this group already has 138,000 members!
Reading through the wall, and read things like,
“Please do not infringe on my right and choice to celebrate Christmas!!”
“Why should I change saying Merry Christmas? Just to please someone else. I will please my SELF first!”
“People wanting to take Christ out of Christmas should start their own “Happy Holiday” and leaves OURS alone.”
“Statistically over 80% of the U.S. population is Christian, so as far as I’m concerned the other 20% can go jump up off a cliff”
And I could go on and on and on…
But let me tell you something…this thing that is making Christians so angry…the whole politically correct thing, or not offending anyone, or the real foundation of that, which is just relativism and religious syncretism, these things are NOT going away
In fact, we are at the dawn of a postmodern age in this country where you are going to see more and more people in this country embracing other religions, believing in multiple gods, believing in multiple religions at once
But listen. What we do at this critical juncture in American History is important! And right now, I just want to say: We are NOT dealing w/ this in the right way. Or even in a Godly way.
And first of all, let’s not be afraid of what might happen. We serve a big God
And let’s remember, God’s CHURCH has been here before.
Look at China…
If you think our culture is somehow oppressive towards Christians because some stores advertise Happy Holidays, this is nothing compared to how the communist government of China has imprisoned and martyred Christians
YET, Christianity has exploded there in the last 20 years.
Look at Africa…
Just over 100 years ago, Christianity barely existed in Africa, now many countries in Africa are predominately Christian.
In a continent where 100 years ago, there were 1,000’s of different tribal gods worshipped. Yet Jesus is now reigning supreme in 100’s of millions of lives there.
OR, look at the New Testament…
On the very first Christmas, in the year when we switched from BC to AD, Jesus was born into a world that was obsessed with multiple gods and believed that they were all true in their own way.
Yet, look at what’s happened. His Truth has reached into an entire world.
Was in a class in seminary…student read a letter from pastor friend in Eastern Europe who was being persecuted…
And this pastor, who was in a country with LOTS of persecution (not only did you NOT say Merry Christmas, you didn’t Christ, Jesus, God), and I’ll never forget how he ended his letter
He said this: “Whatever you do, please do NOT pray for the persecution to stop. For it is only in the midst of this intense persecution that God has finally allowed our persecuters to see our deep love for them despite how they persecute us. And through that LOVE, God is finally making himself known to them.”
And that is how the church of Jesus Christ has grown over the centuries.
Through truth, but through LOVE that shines through in the midst of opposition
And listen, I fear that in our American church, in the midst of opposition and persecution, we are letting hate shine through. We are letting anger shine through.
And people are seeing our selfish, pitiful, and extreme need to be right rather than our love.
And that grieves me.
That’s not what Christmas is about.
Christmas is about sharing the incredible news that Jesus Christ came to earth to one day grow up and offer his life for messed up people like you and I
And that’s why I love the end of that video we played this morning…
Because, yeah, we should tell people Merry Christmas
But not because of our need to prove we’re right, but because you know what, it IS a GOOD message, and IS important to remember what it’s all about.
And it’s a message that I want to share with people. In my words, but also in my actions.
And it’s the combination of those two things that revived the church in China, that rebirthed the church in Africa, and that birthed the church itself in the first century
So go forward from here today and SPEAK AND LIVE the good news that a SAVIOR IS BORN!
And do so out of love.
Because that’s why Jesus came for you.
If you look under your chair right now, you should see a connection card and a pen. Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.
You’ll notice this week, that our connection cards look a little different (explain)
Also, while you’re filling those out, we do want to mention to you, that we are having a Christmas Eve service that we’d love you to join us for. It’s going to be at 3:30pm
We are going to take an offering now as well
A way for us to give back to a God who reached out to us
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering cans just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let me just pray for the offering quick
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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