There has been a lot of debate and discussion about what to say during the month of December when referring to the Religious, Cultural, or Atheist points of view.
We see it in our government buildings, work places, public displays, or in our dealings with one another each day. We have become a nation of political correctness where expressing how you feel must be sequestered and edited so that there is no possibility of offending anyone or sending people screaming off into the night because they were injured by your words.
The talk shows are all a buzz about the attack on Christian values and the public display of the nativity, Christmas trees, or anything else deemed to reference one religion or another. The local, county, and state officials are caught in the middle of this debate. If they put up a tree on public property do they call it a Christmas tree and face countless law suits, or do they call it a Holiday tree and face ridicule from the Christian community? Even our work environment has changed; we have Holiday trees and parties for fear of offending an employee who does not celebrate Christmas.
As Chaplains, we try to remain neutral so as not to favor one religion over another. It is often challenging when speaking to those who hold different beliefs than our own to understand what others preach. It is not the Chaplains job to accept all principals of all religions or condemn those who hold opposing views, have no religious affiliation at all, or no belief in the existence of any deities.
So what do I say this time of year?
I am from a Christian background which has guided me throughout my life. My beliefs and traditions are rooted in my family’s history so there is only one answer for me, Merry Christmas. Christmas is a season of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men”. The significance of this time, for me, is based in my religious faith. I often fail to understand why one person or group feels that this should be stopped before it spreads.
When I say “Merry Christmas” to someone it is to relay the joy I feel, to wish them well, to wish them peace. I am not asking them to stop what they are doing and run to the nearest church and convert to Christianity. When someone tells me Happy Chanukah, I smile and accept their greeting and well wishes, I do not begrudge them their experience nor would I want to prevent them from their celebration.
If you celebrate Rohatsu, Chanukah, Solstice,Yule, Litha, Zarathosht Diso, or Christmas this month, celebrate with all your heart. If you come across someone who does not share your belief, continue to wish them good health and peace. As for me, I have my Christmas tree in the front window, lights on the bushes, a smile on my face, a warm greeting on my lips, and my God in my heart.
And if you see a “Holiday Tree” or hear “Holiday Season”, just substitute “Christmas” if you so desire, to celebrate your own beliefs and “God” in your own way.
Happy Holid…er, Chan…em, Solst…auh, Zarath….Oh here we go again,
M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S!