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”?
“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.”
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!