Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The holiday season is over, so we won’t hear about the above phrase for nearly another year. Perhaps now is the time to say some things.

Many of my friends get upset every year that the word “Christmas” is not used as often as it should be. Apparently our President sent out a generic “Holiday” greeting card, as did his predecessor. (I don’t know for sure, as I didn’t receive a card from either.)

The complaint used to be about “keeping Christ in Christmas”; now it seems to be a fear that the very word “Christmas” is being eliminated. This is perceived as a threat to our “values,” and it would seem, to Christ Himself

But is it really?

During the season, I have usually said, “Merry Christmas” to people, whether I know them well or not. Often I’ve said, “Have a good Christmas,” or something like that. (I can’t see where the use of the word “Merry” has any value.)

But I also often say, “Have a good holiday season” or something similar. After all, there is a pile-up of holidays at that time of the year. I’ve also said “Happy Hanukkah” to Jewish people I know. I don’t say “Merry Christmas” to my Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or even Atheist acquaintances unless they say it to me first, though they usually do. I don’t feel that just a few words with the word Christ in them is that much of a witness (if any).

So my attitude has generally been what difference does it make, if any? Or does God really care what words we use?

But then I got to thinking about the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11). There has been much debate over the exact meaning of this command, especially the Hebrew word translated “in vain” (shaw’). The word has the meaning of “emptiness,” “vanity”, even “falsehood.” One dictionary says “the evidence points to the fact that taking the Lord’s name (i.e. his reputation) ‘in vain’ will surely cover profanity, as the term is understood today, or swearing falsely in the Lord’s name. But it will also include using the Lord’s name lightly, unthinkingly or by rote” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.). Jews today do not pronounce the name YHWH, but instead substitute Adonai.

If we believe that Jesus’ title, “Christ” is the title of Deity, are we possibly using His name in vain when we lightly throw around the word “Christmas”?
Our songs:
 “Have a holly jolly Christmas”
 “Then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say, ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright …’”
 “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”
 “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”
Our signs:
 “Christmas Sale”
 “Christmas Special”

Anyway, even if we’re not taking Christ’s name in vain by these usages, I still fail to see how the above uses of His name are in any way honoring Him. Perhaps we would do better to simply say, “Happy Holidays.”

Just a thought!

Bill Ball


Michelle said...

Those are some interesting thoughts, Opa. Way to go against the stream :) I've felt the same way about "Happy Holidays" as people are celebrating Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, and New Years all within a little more than a month.

Good thoughts on using it lightly. Definitely something to think about.

Sherry said...

or maybe happy saturnalia since that's how that time of year was chosen
~ Sheldon

Bill Ball said...

What's the appropriate greeting for Festivus?

Mike said...

I still like a hearty "Merry Christmas." But I understand your point.

Sherry said...

happy festivus - but really nothing about it is happy if you ask me - afterall it was started by one of TV's grumpiest geezers

Bill Ball said...

Received from a friend:

"Hi Bill and Uni! It was very good to see you last night. I have missed you both.

Bill I just read your blog. I tried to leave a comment on the page but I don’t have a Google account so I wasn’t able to. I liked what you said, I haven’t ever thought about taking Christ’s name in 'vain' like that. I agree with you that we do flippantly throw around His name a lot at Christmas time whether we believe it holds any importance or not. Since I love Jesus and believe that His name holds great meaning, it was a good reminder to remember the holiness of who Christ is.

Anyway, I hope to see you both tonight and if not I will see you next week! Megan"

EdTechSandyK said...

Cool thoughts. As if saying "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" is any sort of litmus test for one's reverence for or belief in the Lord.

Also, in reference Presidential Christmas cards, I volunteered on the Texas Book Festival committee for a couple of years. Laura Bush was the founder of the festival, so I recieved Christmas cards from the Whitehouse during those two years. I can't put my hands on them right at this moment, but I remember appropriate Bible verses in both of them. Whether they said "Christmas" or not, they certainly acknowledged our Maker.