My friend Burk Parsons tweeted something a couple of days ago that prompts me to revisit a topic I broached last Christmas season. Burk says:
Saying in a corrective tone “Merry Christmas” in response to a store clerk’s mandated “Happy Holidays” greeting is not a form of evangelism.
I agree, but taking a step back, I think we ought to contemplate why it is some evangelicals get so offended by this practice. I know we don’t like the idea of a Christless Christmas — and we shouldn’t! — but let’s think about it for a second: Is insisting that a store clerk throw out Christ’s name in a thoughtless cultural greeting any meaningful kind of redemption of the reality that what we’re encouraging is hollow cultural Christianity and what we’re doing is buying stuff?
I submit that “Merry Christmas” as an empty cliche is equally Christless to “Happy Holidays.” And in fact we ought to reckon the perfunctory “Merry Christmas” as more offensive than a cheerful “Happy Holidays,” not less.
Why? Because God commands us to revere his name and keep it holy. I don’t think getting irked that the clerk at Target didn’t Jesusify his mandated holiday greeting meets what this law demands.
I guess what I’m saying is, why do we want to force people to claim our Christ? Let’s not foist Christ at Christmastime. We ought to take care we aren’t campaigning for Christ’s name to be taken in vain! But I fear this is what we’re doing.
Boycotting or petitioning to make store salespeople confess Christ to us does nothing to truly honor Jesus. It just puts our preferred religious gauze on what is very often (though not always) moralistic or consumeristic idolatry. It might make us feel better but it does not truly adorn Christ’s gospel. As Uncle Lewis says, “That ain’t the Christmas star, Gris. That’s the light on the sewage treatment plant.”