“Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holiday”

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Since the 1960’s, American culture has been trending toward secularization. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we’re currently embroiled in a national debate over whether retailers (and others) should wish shoppers a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. However, this struggle is more complex than just a battle between secularism and Christianity; we’re also witnessing a collision between secularism and capitalism.

High on the Secularist agenda is the eradication of religion (Christianity in particular) from the collective memory of Americans. An example of this agenda at work is seen in many history textbooks. Through historical revision all references to the faith of the pilgrims and the founding fathers have been erased in the name of tolerance. Though Secularists preach tolerance, they are intolerant toward anything Christian, including the name of Christ in Christmas. If the secularists had their way, they would eradicate Christmas completely. But alas, this would hurt the capitalist.

Christmas is big business. For many businesses, a large percentage of their annual profit is made during the Christmas season. Retailers rely so much on Christmas that British writer and journalist Katharine Whitehorn said, “From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.” Perhaps this is why some of the retailers who set a policy against employees wishing patrons a “Merry Christmas” reversed their decision after public outcry. Retailers aren’t stupid; the bottom line is far more important than the secularist agenda. I’m sure many corporate executives are internally torn–fully supporting secularism and yet needing Christmas to turn a profit. Secularists are attempting to cut off the head of the retailer’s golden goose. Their agenda could ultimately eradicate Christmas as an official holiday and make December 25th just another workday.

In the midst of all this controversy, it might be a good time for Christians to reevaluate how we celebrate Christmas. Christians have bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas for years and yet we continue to contribute to it voluntarily. In the hustle and bustle of the season, it is easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. Maybe one day soon, Christians will celebrate Christmas by simply emphasizing the miracle of the Incarnation–God stepping out of heaven to be born human; to remember how this baby grew to be the most unique man who ever lived; to remember how he died on a Roman cross to save us from sin and death. When Christ becomes the primary focus of Christmas, everything else pales in comparison. This season, I pray that no one will miss the significance of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11)”. Have a Merry Christmas.


Billy Elkins is the pastor of Trinity Church of Chickasha, OK. He is a graduate of Chickasha High School, has a B.A. in Fine Art from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, FT. Worth, TX. He is currently in the final dissertation phase of a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Philosophy from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.