I decided to put a message on our church sign that would remind Christians that no matter what our society wants to call it, it is still Christmas. We have struggled with the proper wording, is it “It’s Christmas, not Holidays,” “It’s Christmas, not a Holiday” or “It’s Christmas, not the Holidays?”Any error in wording would be mine but no matter the wording, I guess it would be critically examined and parsed no matter which one we put up. The point being we put it up.
One day latter I received an email that expressed offense at the “hostile” nature of the sign. I wanted to share the email with you and my response, in hopes that it will better articulate why the fight for “Christmas” is important and worth fighting for.
Here is the email we received:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pass your church at least twice a day and so cannot have helped but notice your signboard out front. I feel compelled to say what has been going through my mind and heart since seeing it for the first time, and every day since.
I understand the message you are conveying. As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Christ on “our” holiday – whether the date, even the season, is right or wrong it does well enough to stand in for a date that may be forever unknown to us. Also as Christians, we believe the Bible when it says ours is the only way, through Christ the Savior, to gain eternal life. Therefore, by default, we know that other religious beliefs are misguided.
May I just be blunt in saying I think the message on the sign has a hostile tone to it. With your permission or without it, with your blessing or without it, with your understanding or without it, this season contains many various holidays for different groups of people. To say “my beliefs are right and yours don’t count” is validating all the negative things being said about Christian intolerance these days. Yes, the doctrine of the Jew, and the Muslim, and the Buddhist, and so on, are wrong – but they do count, to those who follow them, and should be respected, not as truth, but as a powerful force in the life of many people we have yet to reach.
Isn’t our duty as Christians to find the best, most effective way to call those people to our church, to our Savior? I have never known a method to be effective that is based on disrespect. Or on just discounting a heritage of belief that is core to someone’s faith and identity. They may be wrong, but just think, you can with patience and respect, change how that person sees the human-to-God relationship and guide them in the path that will take them to their Creator in the end. Guide, do not push. Listen, do not sneer or shut out. Be understanding if not accepting.
I think your sign is disrespectful, and I don’t think it was meant to be or that it was put up there by narrow-minded people, or people so smug in their beliefs that they have locked their doors against taint to OUR holiday, OUR church, OUR Jesus, instead of opening their arms and saying, Christmas is our reason for being – please celebrate it with us.
I wish all of you a very Blessed Christmas.
And here is my response:
I appreciate your email concerning the sign at Lakeview Baptist Church. We believe the essence of Christmas, the reason for the season as it were, is the birth of Jesus Christ, nothing more and nothing less. It is distinctly and exclusively a CHRISTIAN holiday — a time when Christians around the world commemorate the birth of their Savior, the very reason for their faith. However, in American popular culture the reality of Christmas has not just been lost; it has been discarded like ripped wrapping paper. Christ’s birth is no longer the focus. All things secular trump the sacred as Americans celebrate Christmas in name only.
The message we want to convey is that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the terminology is important to us. It is Christmas, not just a holiday. We are not disparaging other holidays during this season. We are just maintaining our desire to call it Christmas and not a holiday. We feel that it is not just another “Holy Day” like Kwanza, Hanukkah, or Ramadan and we refuse to sit by idly as it is blended into other seasonal celebrations. I think it is a double-standard to ask Christians not to express their belief in Jesus during Christmastime, but, yet those of other religions are able to freely express their beliefs without criticism.
To many, the very word that describes the holiday, “Christmas,” has come under increasing assault. The word is offensive because it includes the word “Christ.” The phrase “Happy Holidays” is the preferred all-inclusive, secular alternative to “Merry Christmas.” Christ has been slowly but surely ousted from the holiday that bears his name. The Christmas celebrated by popular culture does not honor Christ — it mostly ignores Him.
With that being said, other things concerned me in your email. In your attempt to make sure alternative views “count” and in your effort to protect “Christians” from validating their “so called” intolerance, you failed to mention that these alternate views lead, those who believe them, to endure eternal damnation without Jesus Christ. For me to believe that Jesus Christ is only way to heaven, a way that the Jew, the Muslim, and the Buddhist, and many others reject and for me to respect and tolerate the error, that will ultimately damn their souls, is indifference at the least and downright hatred at worst.
To reach people of other persuasions, you must present the gospel and when you present the gospel you must present Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and the gospel by implication proclaims that Christ is THE WAY and every other way is wrong, not simply misguided but wrong. It is the power of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ that changes people, not our patience and respect of their beliefs.
The sign simply says, “It’s Christmas not a Holiday.” There is no negativity directed at any other religion. If that is your take from the sign, you read that into it. The sign is our counter-cultural pull against that which insists that we remove the term Christmas and replace it with holiday. While there was “no room for Him in the inn” on the night of His birth, there seems to be room for Him as we celebrate His birth over 2,000 years later.
It seems that many want Christians to celebrate Christmas, just leave out the “Christ part”. Don’t cause others to think or contemplate what Christmas is really about and don’t mention Jesus. In other words, “just celebrate Christmas without Christ”. A Christless Christmas.
I would close by reminding you that Jesus Christ and his disciples never preached a tolerant gospel. They never sought to be respectful or accepting. They simply preached boldly the truth of the Word of God and in each and every case they suffered greatly and eventually lost their lives doing so. We water down the message in an attempt to be liked and not hated and accepted and not rejected. But Jesus clearly warned that “If the world hated him, it will hate us,” his followers.
Just as signs can be misunderstood so can emails. I would be more than happy to sit down and discuss this with you at any time.
I wish you a wonderful Christ-filled Christmas,