Every Christmas I get emails bemoaning the sad state of affairs we're in. Stores have banners proclaiming not "Merry Christmas!" but "Happy Holidays!" Schools have a "winter break," not "Christmas break." And occasionally a decorated evergreen is called a "holiday tree."
Now, I'll admit the "holiday tree" thing is almost as ridiculous as calling a menorah a "holiday candlestick." But I'm also going public with this belief:
I'm okay with "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings." You don't have to tell me "Merry Christmas" for me to enjoy shopping at your store or greeting you in the street.
I'm a devout Christian. I believe that the Bible is true, that Jesus really was born to a virgin, and that these things are worth celebrating and sharing.
But, really, is a huge "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!" above the Barbie and Lego pictures in a Target ad going to convince someone to believe in Christianity? And as a Christian, does "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!" really threaten the beliefs of my heart and mind? If it does, I think I've got a problem.
I think a lot of this is tied to a sense of dismay held by many Christians--dismay that America is "no longer a Christian nation." Well...we aren't. And we weren't ever meant to be. Sure, a lot of Founding Fathers were Christians. Plenty of others weren't. They very specifically did not create the USA as a theocracy.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." That's straight from the First Amendment. In order to be truly free to practice whatever religion we want (or not to practice at all), we've got to be in a country whose government doesn't recognize any particular religion as more true than any other.
If that means public schools want to call it "winter break" instead of "Christmas vacation," I'm fine with that. Just as I don't need Target ads to validate my belief in Christ, I'm not going to depend on public schools to give my children religious education. It's a break from school, and it's in the winter. Winter break. Works for me.
And that whole "free exercise" thing means that Target, Sears, & Wal-Mart can celebrate Christmas if they want (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or none of the above, or all of the above.) I'll wholeheartedly defend their right to make those decisions. I'd expect to be defended in my right to act according to my beliefs, too.
This December my family is celebrating the Christian version of Christmas, including sending out a Scripture-quoting card. And when I say "Merry Christmas," you can respond with "Happy Holidays," "Season's Greetings," "Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Kwanzaa," or "Yippeekiyay, it's Winter Solstice and the days are going to get longer again!"
I may not agree with your beliefs, and you may not care for mine...but I think most of us can concur that religious freedom is a beautiful thing, any season of the year.