It’s been more than sixteen years since I moved to Lubbock. A nice “Christian town” in the middle of a “Christian nation”. And one of the earliest controversies I remember getting sucked into was the debate over whether it was okay to say “Happy Holidays” when greeting people out and about.
Well, it’s almost Thanxgiving again, a sure sign we are getting close to Christmas, but, of course, Christmas is still more than a month off. Also, Christmas is followed closely by New Year’s Day. And let’s not ignore the fact that New Year’s Eve is as much a part of the holiday, if not more, than New Year’s Day. Additionally, some families celebrate Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day, not to mention all the seasonal parties at the office or the parties with “the other side of the family” which may find themselves scheduled anywhere throughout the month. (Of course you know ALL of this already.)
I will admit that Christmas is the KING KONG of holidays, but it is not the only one! Also, the older I get, the more Halloween seems to inch closer to the “holiday season”, unlike when I was a kid and it seemed sooooooo far away.
Oh, and while I am on the subject of “when I was a kid”, the phrase “Happy Holidays” was but one well-established holiday greeting. In fact, “Season’s Greetings” were just as acceptable, though I will admit that the phrase “Merry Christmas” was the gold standard.
But hear me out now, this will all matter by the end, trust me.
When I was a teenager working as a bag boy at the supermarket, I recall a time when I carried out the sacks of groceries to the car for a couple one evening about three or four days after Christmas, and I reflexively said, “Merry Christmas” as I finished with them. It suddenly hit me that Christmas was over, technically, and I could see it went sideways as the expression on the man’s face mirrored the notion I was having. “Christmas is a year away!” I thought, and so I turned again to correct myself and said, “Happy Holidays!”
At that exact moment, I made “Happy Holidays” my standard go-to greeting for the season. Technically, it even covers Halloween. I can even pull it out on Valentine’s Day, except Valentine’s Day seems to stand alone, making the plural of “Happy Holidays” sit a little funny.
But then I moved to Lubbock, the “Christian town” in this “Christian nation”, and the first time I greeted an old guy I knew from church with the phrase “Happy Holidays”, I suddenly found out what a bastard greeting it was! I mean, you would think I stayed up all night devising an insult for this man. He went ballistic. And it so happened that we were in a public space, not many people around, but a few, and he set out to enlist others to set me straight.
Suddenly I was learned and durned about all the Jews and Pagans and their holidays and how liberals were infiltrating Christmas with their trash religion and holidays, smuggling in this dark evil with the phrase, “Happy Holidays” and how my use of it was treasonously giving aid to the enemy!
Welcome to Lubbock, Texas where the Christians have their ISSUES well sorted out!
I don’t hear much about the “Happy Holidays” controversy any more. It seems to have fallen to the wayside. It seems to have gone the way of “Forty Days of Purpose”. It seems to have been “Left Behind”. Apparently it was a mad fad for Christians. (Do Christians need to have mad fads???)
But you know what hasn’t gone away?
Winter cold that accompanies the Happy Holidays.
You know, back before I was kicked out of church for knocking on the church house door to bring in the poor, I used to volunteer and celebrate with the homeless in this town at the officially sanctioned celebrations. There are a number of ministries that reach out, especially during the Happy Holidays, and it creates a news item that splashes across our TV’s all through the Season’s Greetings.
The Methodists hosted a lavish turkey dinner and invite the community in for it just a few days prior to Thanxgiving Day. And it was a fantastic meal. If you don’t mind a bunch of smelly homeless people eating at the table with you, you are welcome too. Or you can volunteer to cook/clean. But on the actual holiday, all that would be over – history.
The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) and the Sally historically have provided a big meal on the actual holiday, AND provide space to watch the football game. But unless the weather is particularly icy, that operation gets shut down (sometimes before the game ends), and all the homeless people get the boot! (I know; I’ve seen it.) But this part never makes it on the TV news.
The homeless are loved lavishly when cameras are rolling. But by the time that game comes on, no one is watching anymore.
How about this year, we change it up?
Are you listening to me church??? (Or does my voice have no volume?)
What if this year we work for peace on earth and good will for homeless people and God’s people? What if we say, “This year, there IS room at the inn… in the House of God!” And what if we turn Turkey Day into a fancy potluck down at the church house? What if we get all the grannies cooking, and the shepherds seeking lost sheep? What if we deploy the young, able-body men as overseers of the flock to stand guard and eject troublemakers, but focus more on hosting Jesus in the inn? What if that “fire side room” was filled with bedrolls, and the whole church showed up to eat and party and camp in for the night singing Christmas songs, telling Christmas stories, eating turkey and roasted marshmallows, and everyone acting AS ONE – rich-n-poor, proud-n-humble, head-n-body?
Think of it!
Sure there will be a mess. I know that. I know there are logistics to deal with, but can you see the PARTY? Can you see Jesus??? Can you see the IMPACT a welcome like this makes on the poor and on YOU? Can you see what Jesus MIGHT do miraculously in this that all your best planning and all your avoidance of hurting when helping cannot account for?
Open your eyes!
And Happy Holidays!!!