OPINION: Merry Christmas, or not – take your pick

Sonny Scott’s column in Dec. 13 Sunday Journal is worth revisiting.
He described an acquaintance who belonged to a non-mainstream church, who delighted in pointing out the devilish customs in which her co-workers indulged – even such depraved acts as listening to a radio or trimming their hair.
She was particularly enthusiastic about condemning Christmas.
When her co-workers jeered her with a rendition of “Silent Night,” she reveled in her semi-martyrdom, wearing a “smirk of supreme satisfaction,” as Mr. Sonny wrote.
I was once one of those who utterly eschewed Christmas. I have felt that same smirk on my own face at seeing people waste so much time, energy and money on “pagan rituals.”
Years ago I was lifted – no bootstrap project, that – out of that theology. It’s painful to remember how I dismissed not just Santa Claus and Christmas trees but “Joy to the World” – one of the most scripturally truthful songs I can imagine – with equal disdain.
It’s also bothersome to see folks going to the other ditch, abandoning graciousness toward those who might not be sufficiently invested – emotionally and religiously – in Christmas.
Throughout history, some Christians – including the Puritans who gave us Thanksgiving – have rejected Christmas because of its pagan origins or its postpagan excesses.
As I understand it, though, Christmas was adopted, or adapted, to “redeem” what was familiar to pagans and make it illustrative of Gospel principles – much as the apostle Paul used the Greeks’ “unknown god” to introduce the God he knew.
With the same mindset today, instead of making “Merry Christmas” a test of orthodoxy, we’d be learning about Yom Kippur, Eid ul-Fitr and even the Buddhist Elephant Festival to see what analogies they offer for the gospel message.
And we’d be constantly jettisoning customs whose meaning has long since disappeared instead of jealously defending them.
Paul warned against judging others about peripheral matters like dietary practices and observance of days.
In Romans 14:5-6, he wrote, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
“He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.”
So, to all my Christian friends: I wish for you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Peaceful Ordinary Days – take your pick.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

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